Bangladesh must act on these brutal attacks on bloggers
We, the undersigned writers, and PEN members, come together to condemn the horrific deaths of our colleagues Ananta Bijoy Das (or Dash), Washiqur Rahman Babu and Avijit Roy, three secular bloggers who have been brutally murdered on the streets of Bangladesh in the last three months. We urge Prime Minister Hasina Wajed and her government to do all in their power to ensure that the tragic events of the last three months are not repeated, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
We were shocked and horrified by the murder of 32-year-old blogger and editor Ananta Bijoy Das, who was hacked to death on his way to work by a masked gang wielding machetes in the city of Sylhet on 12 May. Prior to his death, Das had reportedly received a number of death threats from Islamist militants, and his name had appeared in two assassination lists published in the Bangladeshi media, alongside those of other secular bloggers described as anti-Islamic and blasphemous.
Just months earlier, on 26 February, Avijit Roy, a fellow blogger and close friend of Das, was similarly killed. Roy and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonya, were viciously attacked by unknown assailants close to Dhaka University. Roy died soon afterwards and his wife was severely injured. A militant Islamist group has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.
A month later, on 29 March, blogger Washiqur Rahman Babu was murdered just 500 yards from his home in Begunbari, Dhaka. Police have claimed that the attackers targeted the 27-year-old blogger because they believed he had defamed Islam through his writings on websites, forums and social media. Two students from a madrassa (an Islamic school) have since been arrested in connection with Rahman’s killing.
At least three other writers have been attacked or murdered in Bangladesh since 2013 and, although there have been several arrests, no one has been held to account for any of these attacks. We are gravely concerned by this escalating pattern of violence against writers and journalists who are peacefully expressing their views. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right under Bangladesh’s constitution and under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We call on the Bangladeshi authorities to swiftly and impartially investigate Das’s death as well as the murders of Roy and Babu, and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice in accordance with international fair trial standards. We also demand that the authorities do all in their power to provide protection and support to bloggers and other writers at risk in Bangladesh, in accordance with Bangladesh’s obligations under national and international law.
Frank Mackay Anim-Appiah
Frankie Asare-Donkoh President, Ghana PEN Centre
Dr Hanan Awwad President, Palestine PEN
María Cecilia Barbetta
Marian Botsford Fraser Chair of Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International
Dr Barbara Bronnen
Aline Davidoff President, PEN Mexico
Alexis de Roode
Antonio Della Rocca President, PEN Trieste
Dr Mathias Schreiber
Dr Burkhart Veigel
Maureen Freely President, English PEN
Jo Glanville Director, English PEN
Brigitte C Gotthold
Josef Haslinger President, German PEN
Khademul Islam Member, Bangladesh PEN
Sirpa Kähkönen President, Finnish PEN
Andrej Khadanovich President, Belarusian PEN
Karl Ove Knausgaard
Ola Larsmo President, Swedish PEN
Emile Martel President, Quebec PEN
Christine McKenzie President, PEN Melbourne
Kyle Mewburn President, PEN NZ
Hege Newth Nouri
William Nygaar President, Norwegian PEN
Per Øhrgaard President, Danish PEN
Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir
Zeynep Oral President, PEN Turkey
Margie Orford President, PEN South Africa
Ra Page Founder, Comma Press
Philippe Sands QC
John Ralston Saul President, PEN International
Sjón President, Icelandic PEN
Carles Torner Director, PEN Internatioal
Manon Uphoff President, PEN Netherlands
Amir Valle Ojeda
Martin A Völker
Gabriele von Arnim