On 3 May 2016, the EHF signed a joint statement by 26 Civil Society Organisations and a number of academics, intellectuals and human rights advocates from Bangladesh and around the world.
The document denounces recent extremist violence against and the murder of free thinkers and non-Islamic believers in Bangladesh, condemns the passivity and ambiguous role of the Bangladeshi government and calls for prompt action to protect these innocent writers, bloggers, publishers, activists, and religious believers simply exercising their basic freedoms.
Join the EHF and other NGOs and sign the petition urging the Bangladeshi government to take appropirate measures! See more details below.
In 2013, hardline Islamist groups provided the government with a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” and asked for the death penalty under a new blasphemy law for those who “insult religion”. Since early 2015, there have been six deadly attacks by machete-wielding militants on atheist, humanist, and secularist writers, bloggers and publishers in Bangladesh since February 2015 as well as many other violent acts against non-Islamic religious believers, LGBT rights activists and university professors.
“The latest wave of attacks in Bangladesh demonstrate how broad the range of possible targets is for these killers, now extending to anyone who lives a life outside a narrow bracket of Islamist fundamentalism”, said President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Andrew Copson.
While some of these attacks have been claimed by native terrorist groups such as Ansarullah Bangla Team and Ansar-al Islam, the Bangladesh branch of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, others have been claimed by Daesh (ISIL).
Although some suspects were arrested, no one has been found guilty of last year’s murders and officials have mostly distanced themselves from the victims or even appeared to blame the deceased for their own murders. This is best embodied by a recent declaration of Prime Minister Hasina who stated that:
such writings as not free thinking but filthy words. Why anyone would write such things? It’s not at all acceptable if anyone writes against our prophet or other religions. Why would the government take responsibility if such writings lead to any untoward incidents? Everyone should maintain decency. Or else the government wouldn’t take the responsibility for any uncivilised attitude.
The signatories of the joint letter therefore call on:
- The Bangladesh government to vigorously protect the full exercise of the freedoms of religion, belief, and expression, threatened atheists, secularists, minorities, and all those exercising their rights in their country;
- Bangladesh government officials to stop citing religion as a justification to refuse the rights of certain Bangladeshis in public statements, and forcefully and categorically condemn violent attacks on atheists, secularists, minorities, and all those exercising their rights in their country;
- The Bangladesh government to conduct prompt, thorough, effective, independent, and impartial investigations into the killings since February 2015, and ensure that all those responsible are brought to justice in fair trials which respect international standards;
- The international community to extend support and provide assistance to Bangladesh to address this human rights crisis.
Feel free to spread this letter to all your contacts, to use our visual and to use the hashtag #banglabloggers.