#19 2015

Letter to my dear friend

“Boi Mela was where they hacked you down. It’s been nine months. I’ve never been one for anniversaries. Yet month after month now, I keep count.”

On February 26th the blogger Avijit Roy was murdered on his way home from a book fair together with his wife. The writer Shabnam Nadiya, who was a childhood friend of Roy, here writes an open letter to him, nine months after the fateful day.

The struggle for a progressive Bangladesh goes on – from Sweden

28-year old blogger and journalist Shamima Mitu left Bangladesh on November 5. She was receiving severe threats because of her writings on social issues. With the aid of The Palme Centre and Swedish PEN, she is now residing

84 bloggers on the death list

Bangladesh was founded as a secular state – but the former regime established Islam as the state religion. This doesn’t tally, and the double ledger has resulted in a tug-of-war that leads ultimately to terror and political

Avijit’s killers

Anisur Rahman, poet, critic and playwright, was guest writer in Uppsala from 2009 to 2011. This newly written poem was composed in response to the murder of the very well-known author and blogger Avijit Roy, who was hacked

Extremist violence is trying to kill the finest part of our tradition

Freedom of expression has a long history in what is now Bangladesh – but nowadays, old power elites are using religiously motivated terrorism to crush it. And our elected politicians are wavering in their defence of democracy. This is a crime

A feminist’s observations

What’s it like to write about feminism and women’s issues in Bangladesh? Author and blogger Marzia Prova has fought long and hard to get to write openly about sex, rape, equality, menstruation and religious attitudes

Daring to know – the story of Mukto-Mona

The very popular blog Mukto-Mona (free thought) was the victim of an Islamist terrorist attack this year that left four of its writers dead. The blog was a successful experiment in freethinking and free debate, and can be

When there’s no secular state, there’s only discrimination and oppression

How democratised a society is can be judged by how it treats its minorities. From day one, Bangladesh has endeavored to be a secular and pluralist state – but concessions to various extremist forces have created a volatile

The crisis in Bangladesh — and what can be done

The situation for secular intellectuals in Bangladesh is worsening by the day. According to the American human rights defender Michael De Dora, hopes cannot be pinned on civil society and international organisations. If any

Terror attacks against Bangladesh bloggers murder the future

One after the other the names of writers and bloggers who have been murdered have appeared on the computer screen: Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman, Ananta Bijoy Dash, Niloy Chakrabarti, and Roy’s publisher Faisal Avefin Dipan. In the course of the year, these people have all been killed, often hacked to death, by religious fanatics who have aimed to silence them and to stop them from pursuing an open intellectual debate. The murders of Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Dash made deadlines in world media, but many others have been assaulted and yet others are living under constant threat for their lives. Assassination lists of secular bloggers are circulating on the web—those who are still alive are meant to be intimidated by these killings, and thereby to be silenced.

This past year, a constant flow of similar horrendous news has been reaching us from Bangladesh. The list of names of murdered persons, however, must not become any longer. All these victims have been killed for the same reason: they have attempted to pursue a serious and intellectual debate about the relationship between scientific findings and social progress and, most importantly, about the role of religion in society. The killers attack these serious-minded debaters with their machetes—all in the name of religion. The guest writer Ratan Kumar Samadder describes in detail what this terror campaign looks like. Several of those killed were connected to the respected blog site Mukto-Mona (literally “freethinker”), which is a platform for critics of religion, agnostics, and secular humanists; the story behind the blog is here given narrative form by the contributor to the site Siddharta Dhar.