IHEU condemns slaying of blogger
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has issued a statement condemning yesterday’s killing of Ananta Bijoy Das in Bangladesh.
Prior to Ananta’s murder, blogger Md Washiqur (or Oyasiqur) Rahman Babu was hacked to death on March 30 this year in Bangladesh. His attackers claiming they had been instructed to kill him as their “Islamic duty”.
Avijit Roy was killed on February 27, 2015, outside the Dhaka book fair, in an attack which also seriously injured his wife Bonya Ahmed.
When his name appeared on on a hit list in March, Das wrote to IHEU, saying:
It seems to me I am one of the targets. I am not sure how long I will hide myself. But I am sure If they will find me they will do what they did with Mr. Avijit Roy. My life is seriously unsecured. I am not sure how can I protect myself & my family.
Each of these murders is a crushing loss to the humanist and secularist communities of South Asia and the world.
IHEU condemns this murder in the strongest possible terms, as well as the failures of the Bangladeshi authorities to bring to justice the individuals and to break the networks behind this string of targeted killings. Whether from apathy, or incompetence, or intimidation, the police and government are utterly failing Bangladeshi humanist, atheist and secularist writers, thinkers and activists.
Ananta Bijoy Das had reached out to us at IHEU following the murders of Avijit and Washiqur. Accepting the very serious threat to this life, we advised Ananta in trying to make the difficult move out of danger. However, we have been informed that his application for a visa to travel to Sweden, under invitation from Swedish PEN, was rejected last week by the Swedish embassy in Dhaka, on the basis that he might seek to remain in Sweden.
We call on all countries to recognise the legitimacy and sometimes the urgency and moral necessity of asylum claims made by humanists, atheists and secularists who are being persecuted for daring to express those views.
We’ve been in contact with several Bangladeshi humanists, in particular since Avijit Roy was killed in February. These writers are not hateful, not intolerant; they write about science and politics, they are proponents of secularism, they voice skeptical and rationalist arguments, they call for justice and for humanism. They are desperately and increasingly concerned that they, too, have been named on the Islamist death lists.
Their murderers are assassinating writers in an attempt to terrify a nation against voicing humanist and secularist values and ideas, and to deter any criticism of religious beliefs or religious authorities. Their vile campaign of intimidation and terror must be met — not with hollow words and appeasement — but with strenuous, rigorous justice.
Swedish PEN confirmed in a statement that they had invited Ananta to Sweden to talk about the threat to atheists in Bangladesh, but his visa application was refused, despite the clear and demonstrated mortal threat to atheist writers in Bangladesh, and despite the support of PEN for his visit. Swedish PEN is demanding:
A detailed and credible explanation of why the Swedish Embassy in Dhaka chosen not to grant Ananta Bioy Dash the visa he needed to meet the Swedish PEN’s invitation to speak in Stockholm
In the visa refusal letter seen by IHEU (sent by the Embassy of Sweden in Dhaka to Das on April 22, 2015) the embassy noted among other considerations: “you are unmarried and you do not have any children”, as reason to consider the applicant not “well established in Bangladesh”, therefore:
… you have not made it likely that the purpose of the journey is only for a short visit for a meeting and not settlement there. You belong to a category of applicants where there is always a risk involved when granting a visa that you will not leave Schengen area after the visit.
Furthermore, the purpose of your trip is not urgent enough to grant you visa. With regards to this and different circumstances in your case as well as different visa regulations you do not fulfil the requirements for a visa. Your application is therefore rejected.
A comment piece in the Guardian said:
Like Raif Badawi, imprisoned and flogged in Saudi Arabia, the brave men who have been murdered are guilty of nothing more than honesty and integrity. Those are virtues that fundamentalists and fanatics cannot stand. They should inspire us. The struggle for free speech, for free inquiry and for the liberty of atheism need not be a fight against religion, unless religion is opposed to human dignity. It is a struggle against cowardice and conformism, and against everyone who would crush both truth and imagination into a cramped coffin of orthodoxy.