Asia-Pacific, Bangladesh, Human Rights, Science & Tech

Blogging in Bangladesh: Freethinking May Get You Killed

There’s a great dispute in Bangladesh between the secularists and the Islamic extremists on the other side. Each of them have their own interest. Secularists want separation of religion and state, while Islamic extremists have an absolutely different point of view. They want Bangladesh to become an Orthodox Sunni Islamic state.

One of the ways secularists are trying to spread the idea of religion and state separation is blogging and writing. Blogging in Bangladesh has become very dangerous since 2013, after some of the atheist, secularist writers have been killed or seriously injured by extremists because of their beliefs. The past few years have shown that the fundamental human right of freedom of speech is being badly abrogated in Bangladesh.

Muslims make up nearly 89% of Bangladesh, so they are dominating in this country. Fundamentalist muslims want to break the tradition of separation of religion and state in Bangladesh. Their beliefs are mostly based on universal faith in God. They want to create a religious state and respond with violence to anyone who dares to act against their purposes. Everything started in 2010 when the Bangladeshi government created a war crimes tribunal that would investigate cases that occurred during the war in 1971. This war was the War of Independence for Bangladesh as it seceded from Pakistan. During this tribunal, the leader of one small Islam party was sentenced to life imprisonment. Bangladeshi bloggers and writers played a big role in the condemnation of the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. Since then ideological difference between extremists and bloggers in Bangladesh has expanded and turned into an aggressive relationship based on a violence and imprudence.

The Hit List

As the articles show, secularist bloggers are afraid of living in their own country, but they still continue to fight for Bangladesh to become a secular homeland. The terror began when in 2013, a list of “atheist bloggers” was sent anonymously to the newspapers. The “Hit list” included names of 84 writers and bloggers. After that, attacks began, several members of the list have been killed already. Extremists used machetes in every attack and that’s why they are called “Machete Attacks”. People who have announced the “Hit list” call themselves “Defenders of Islam”. Responsibility for most of the attacks has been claimed by the Ansarullah Bangla Team. According to the police, this movement has an active link with both Jamaat-e-Islami and Al-Qaeda’s youth wings. The remaining attacks have been organized by indivuduals or obscure groups that aren’t known to us.

Several articles have been written by those bloggers from the “Hit list”. They tell us their story, about how frightened they are. They are afraid of going to work because danger is everywhere. “Just over a week ago, machete-wielding extremists tore Faisal Arefin Dipon’s body to pieces, tearing our dream as well.”, says one of the “freethinkers” about the death of one of his friends. In these words he means the dream of an independent, democratic, and secular Bangladesh, a country where all the fundamental human rights will be protected and where people’s life won’t be threatened by extremists’ reckless actions. In his article, this writer (he prefers to stay anonymous since announcing his name may damage his life) also says: “I have come to tell you this with so much helplessness, suffering and agony in my heart”. These words show us how desperate those people are, they have no real support or backing, not even from their own government. It seems that politicians are not really disturbed by such harsh conditions that Bangladeshi bloggers are suffering from. “Freethinkers” have no support from artists and intellectuals either, as they pretend to be busy with their work. Along with the government, they let the freedom of speech, the protection of life of every citizen, remain safely within Bangladesh’s constitution – without practicing in reality. Unfortunately, along with blogging in Bangladesh, writing is also very dangerous. Writers who come up with secular ideas are threatened by extremists. One of the victims of “Machete Attacks” was not a blogger, he was a writer who had just published his secular book.

International Concerns

Along with the maintenance of the government, it’s interesting to see what the international organizations say about the violence that is taking place against the bloggers in Bangladesh. Wikipedia says that The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed concern on behalf of the United Nations on June 13th 2016 by saying, “I am very concerned about the dramatic increase in number of brutal murders in Bangladesh that target freethinkers, liberals, religious minorities and LGBT activists.”

Part of the muslims in Bangladesh support Bangladeshi bloggers and writers. It’s important to say that nearly 100,000 Bangladeshi Muslim clerics have released a fatwa, that says that the murder of “non-muslims, minorities and secular activists is forbidden in Islam”.

Blogging in Bangladesh must not be connected with such danger and risk. I think that International organizations, as well as the Bangladeshi government itself, should provide protection of fundamental human rights in this country. We all must support people who want to express their opinions freely, they are not criminals, killers or rapists. All they want is justice and an independent, democratic country.

About Mariam Nebieridze

Mariam is from Georgia (the country), she is 18 years old and studies law at Tbilisi State University. She spends most of her time studying, reading and writing. Mariam loves reading and researching so if anything interests me, she does her best to get more and more information about that subject. Most of all, she loves art and history, and she's also interested in modern political issues and international relations. Reading, writing and listening to music — these are what shape her personality.

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