The Global Effort to Rescue Persecuted Atheists
Source: Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science/YouTube (September 2016)
With more than a dozen countries criminalizing atheistic expression and anti-atheist sentiment widespread even in purportedly secular countries, organizations have popped up around the globe to rescue persecuted atheists, lobby for civil rights, and promote community and security for atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. Secular Rescue was launched by the Center for Inquiry in 2016 in response to the recent spate of murders of secularist Bangladeshi writers and intellectuals, and its efforts have drawn attention to the plight of freethinkers living in the Global South in need of asylum. The Atlantic recently profiled the organization as well as the conditions contributing to the greater visibility of atheists in regions conventionally assumed to be inhospitable to the growth of secularism and freethought.
“The ‘Underground Railroad’ To Save Atheists” (The Atlantic | January 2018)
“Center for Inquiry Launches ‘Secular Rescue’ to Save Lives of Threatened Activists” (The Center for Inquiry | September 2016)
Atheist Asylum Program
More than a half-million Rohingya flee violence in Myanmar
- Since August, nearly 520,000 Rohingya have crossed the border from their homes in Myanmar into Bangladesh, and dozens—many of them children—have died attempting to reach Bangladesh by boat.
- Refugees spoke of attacks by the military and Buddhist vigilantes, including the burning of villages and physical assaults throughout the state of Rakhine.
- The U.N. has condemned the violence as “ethnic cleansing” on the part of the Burmese state, which targeted Rohingya communities following an attack by Rohingya militants on a military outpost.
“‘I can’t take this any more:’ Rohingya Muslims flee Myanmar in new surge” (Reuters | October 2017)
“Rohingya crisis: Children die as boat capsizes off Bangladesh” (BBC News | October 2017)
“Bangladesh to build one of world’s largest refugee camps for 800,000 Rohingya” (The Guardian | October 2017)
Hundreds of Rohingya flee Myanmar for Bangladesh as violence spreads
- Clashes between government forces and militants have left at least 130 dead and sent hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing across the border into Bangladesh.
- Some reports indicated those attempting to cross the border were gunned down or had their boats pushed away.
- The district at the border has been locked down by Burmese soldiers, cutting off aid agencies and independent observers as reports of mass rape and looting have trickled out.
“Hundreds of Rohingya flee Myanmar army crackdown to Bangladesh: sources” (Reuters)
“Hundreds of Rohingya try to escape Myanmar crackdown” (BBC News)
“Violence in Burma Has Sent Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims Fleeing to Bangladesh” (TIME)
Terrorist attack and standoff in Bangladesh kills at least 20, injures 30
- Seven gunmen attacked the Holey Artisan Bakery, a popular restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter, and took hostages for 11 hours before security forces stormed in.
- The restaurant was popular with immigrants and other foreigners, and gunmen allegedly ordered Bangladeshis to stand before attacking foreign patrons including Italians, Japanese, Indians, and Sri Lankans.
- The attack, claimed by the Islamic State, is the largest in an escalating series targeting secularists, gay activists, foreigners, and religious minorities in the country.
“20 Hostages and Six Gunmen Killed in Bangladesh Attack” (The New York Times)
“Islamist militants kill 20 in Bangladesh before commandos end siege” (Reuters)
“20 killed execution-style” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Fate of seven Japanese among Bangladesh hostages unknown after siege ends” (The Japan Times)
(Image Credit: Reuters, via The Japan Times)
Hindu teacher attacked as Bangladesh cracks down on Islamist militants
- Ribon Chakraborty, a college math teacher, survived a machete attack by three assailants in his home in Madaripur.
- The government reported that the three attackers were a part of the banned group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
- More than 11,000 have been arrested across the country in the last week, including political dissidents, as security forces have begun taking extensive action to combat the targeted killings of minorities that have left more than 30 dead since 2015.
“Hizb ut-Tahrir men hacked Madaripur teacher” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Bangladesh Hindu teacher’s attacker killed in shootout” (Reuters)
“194 Held in Bangladesh Mass Arrests May Have Militant Ties, Police Say” (The New York Times)
IS claims responsibility for murder of Bangladeshi Hindu and alleged Christian
- Debesh Chandra Pramanik, 68, died after a hacking attack in his shoe shop in the northwest district of Gaibandha.
- The attack followed the hacking death of a doctor in Kushtia Islamist militants alleged was a Christian.
- The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the government continues to maintain that IS has no presence in Bangladesh and is attempting to hijack the work of other militant groups.
“Islamic State claims fatal stabbing of Bangladeshi Hindu: monitor SITE” (Reuters)
“Doctor Killed in Bangladeshi Machete Attack” (The New York Times)
“Shahriar rubbishes IS claims” (Dhaka Tribune)
Militant arrested in connection to murder of LGBT activists in Bangladesh
- Shariful Islam, also known as Shihab, was arrested in the district of Kushtia in connection with the deaths of Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy.
- Though Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the murders, Dhaka police say Islam was affiliated with the banned local militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team.
- Since 2013, only one in the series of killings of atheists, moderates, and foreigners in Bangladesh has been prosecuted.
“Suspect arrested over murders of Bangladesh LGBT rights activist Xulhaz, his friend Tonoy” (bdnews24.com)
“Bangladesh police arrest Islamist over gay activists’ killing” (Reuters)
“Bangladesh police arrest suspect in stabbing death of USAID worker” (AP via The Chicago Tribune)
(Image Credit: AP photo, via The Chicago Tribune)