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One by One, Bangladesh’s Activists Are Being Hacked to Death

This week, a professor and two LGBT rights activists were hacked to death in Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi students protest in Rajshahi on April 24, 2016 a day after unidentified attackers hacked to death a university professor.
Bangladesh police arrested an Islamist student on April 24 over the hacking to death of a professor one day earlier, the latest such killing claimed by the Islamic State group. / AFP / -        (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Bangladeshi students protest in Rajshahi on April 24, 2016 a day after unidentified attackers hacked to death a university professor. Bangladesh police arrested an Islamist student on April 24 over the hacking to death of a professor one day earlier, the latest such killing claimed by the Islamic State group. / AFP / - (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

In 2014, Bangladeshi writer and editor Xulhaz Mannan helped organize dozens of people to  march in the “Rainbow Rally,” a  parade on the Bengali New Year designed to spread acceptance of gay rights in the conservative, Muslim country.

This year, police banned him from organizing the rally, and on Monday he was found dead in the capital of Dhaka, hacked to death alongside another LGBT activist who worked with him at Roopbaan, Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder told Agence France-Presse that “unidentified attackers entered an apartment…and hacked two people to death.”

Another police official confirmed to the Guardian that a group of men disguised themselves as couriers to gain access to his apartment.

Both Mannan and the other victim, Tanay Mojumdar, had come out publicly as gay in an attempt to encourage others to do the same. One unidentified friend of the two men told the BBC Monday that “until a year ago the only threat to coming out was shame of the family and having to start a new life elsewhere in Bangladesh. Now it’s one of danger.”

Their deaths are just the latest in a series of brutal attacks on Bangladesh’s left-leaning and secular community of thinkers and writers, 84 of whom were named on a hit-list sent to Bangladeshi newspapers in 2013.

Since last year, at least six secular bloggers and a publisher were hacked to death. Four of them were on that list.

Earlier this week, the Islamic State took credit for murdering a Bangladeshi professor, saying he was targeted for his atheism. The Bangladeshi government denies that the Islamic State is operating in the country, and claims these attacks can be credited to other Islamist extremists. According to Human Rights Watch, the Bangladeshi government has failed to condemn a number of the killings, calling instead for “the bloggers to use restraint in their exercise of free speech.”

Mannan once worked at the U.S. embassy in Dhaka, and on Monday, Marcia Bernicat, the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh, said she was “devastated” by his murder.

State Department spokesman John Kirby also took time to address Mannan’s death at a press briefing in Washington on Monday, saying that his killing “simply is beyond words, unjustifiable, [and] inexcusable.”

“As we mourn his death we celebrate Xulhaz’s life and everything he contributed to Bangladesh, to the United States and to the global struggle for human rights and dignity,” he said. “And we pledge our support to Bangladeshi authorities to ensure that the cowards who did this are held accountable.”

Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

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