Bangladesh: Brutal murder of LGBT editor an appalling indictment of authorities’ failure to protect

Bangladesh: Brutal murder of LGBT editor an appalling indictment of authorities’ failure to protect

PEN Center USA joins PEN International to call on the Bangladeshi authorities to exercise greater vigilance in protecting the right to free expression. A version of this statement originally appeared on the PEN International website.

The savage murder of an editor and leading gay rights activist of Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine in Dhaka is another tragic example of the government’s gross failure to protect intellectuals, activists and writers in Bangladesh.

Xulhaz Mannan, an editor at LGBT magazine Roopbaan, was killed alongside another victim, when unidentified attackers came to their apartment in Dhaka earlier today, posing as couriers. Another person was also injured in the attack.

The killings come just two days after a university professor, 58-year-old Rezaul Karim Siddique, was hacked to death near his home in the northern Bangladesh district of Rajshahi, on his way to the city’s public university where he taught.

Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, said, "How many more writers, editors, and free thinkers in Bangladesh will have to pay the ultimate price – their life – in exercising their right to speak freely, before the government acts? What the government needs to do is pretty clear: it must say, unequivocally, that freedom of expression means the freedom to express views with which others, even the majority, might disagree."

"Bangladesh must ensure that the investigative authorities identify the murderers and prosecute them, instead of advising writers, editors, and bloggers about what is permissible and what is not, what they can say and what they cannot – all of which only ends up rationalizing the murderers who have acted with impunity."

There has been a spate of murders of secular bloggers and thinkers in Bangladesh over the last year. Earlier this month, Nazimuddin Samad, a Bangladeshi law student who had expressed secular views online, died when he was attacked with machetes and then shot in the capital, Dhaka. In 2015, four prominent secular bloggers were killed with machetes.

Dr. Syeda Aireen Jaman, Secretary General of PEN Bangladesh, said, "Bangladeshi authorities can no longer waste even a second of their time in doing everything they can to end this spate of savage killings. They must send a crystal clear message to those who are willing to stop at nothing to silence bloggers, writers, intellectuals and others, that their crimes will not go unpunished. PEN Bangladesh calls for a swift and thorough investigation into these horrific crimes."

In May 2015, more than 150 PEN members and writers around the globe called on the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to take immediate action. It is an appalling indictment of the failure of the authorities to act decisively in this regard that another three writers have lost their lives since then.

PEN Center USA joins PEN International in reiterating our call to the Bangladesh authorities to make the protection of vulnerable writers and investigation of these crimes an utmost priority and to ensure that an immediate end is put to this cycle of violence, fear and consequent self-censorship.

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  • Calling for all necessary measures to be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international fair trial standards;
  • Demanding that all possible steps are taken to protect writers at risk in the country according to Bangladesh’s commitments under national and international law.


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