Thousands rally against anti-Pashtun violence in Karachi
- The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) has emerged as a nonviolent ethnic rights group confronting abuse and neglect by Pakistan’s security apparatus, recently invigorated by the killing of Pashtun youth Naqibullah Mehsud in January.
- Despite a government ban and media censorship, PTM recently staged rallies across the country in cities including Lahore and Karachi, the latter of which is home to Pakistan’s largest Pashtun community and the location of Mehsud’s killing.
- Demonstrators rallied against enforced disappearances (numbering in the thousands, according to some claims), extrajudicial killings, and other human rights abuses against the Pashtun community, who make up 15% of the Pakistani population.
“Thousands rally in Pakistan’s Lahore for Pashtun rights” (Al Jazeera | May 2018)
“Pakistani ethnic rights group stages first rally in Karachi” (Reuters | May 2018)
“On ‘Pashtun Tahafuz Movement’” (The Nation, commentary | May 2018)
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)
Bhutanese journalist faces charges of defamation following social media share
- Namgay Zam, an independent journalist, has been accused of defaming a prominent Bhutanese businessman after sharing a critical post on Facebook.
- The post targeted a property dispute involving the businessman, and the author, Dr. Shacha Wangmo, was charged with libel and petty misdemeanor.
- If convicted, Zam faces a fine of up to 2.59 million Bhutanese ngultrum—around $38,500, or 10 times the average salary of a journalist—or up to three years in prison.
“Bhutan journalist hit by defamation suit for sharing Facebook post” (The Guardian)
“Lawsuit Over Facebook Post Raises Fears of Online Censorship in Bhutan” (Global Voices Advox)
“In Bhutan, a Facebook Post Leads to Defamation Charges” (The Diplomat)
(Image Credit: via The Guardian)
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)
LGBT magazine editor murdered in Dhaka home as killings continue in Bangladesh
- Xulhaz Mannan and a visiting friend were hacked to death by a group of youth posing as couriers to gain access to Mannan’s home.
- Mannan was the editor of Roopbaan, Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine, and a USAid worker.
- The murders are the latest in ongoing attacks against minority intellectuals and follow the detention of LGBT activists attempting to march in Bengali New Year festivities.
“Editor of Bangladesh’s first and only LGBT magazine killed” (The Guardian)
“LGBT magazine Roopbaan editor hacked to death” (The Dhaka Tribune)
“LGBT activist among two hacked to death in Dhaka” (The Hindu)
(Image Credit: via The Guardian)
Professor murdered in northwest Bangladesh as attacks on intellectuals continue
- Rezaul Karim Siddiquee, an English professor at Rajshahi University, was found nearly decapitated near his home after neighbors heard screams and alerted his family.
- Siddiquee is the latest in a series of attacks by fundamentalist militants against academics and writers with progressive leanings.
- Three other professors at the university have been murdered by fundamentalists since 2004.
“RU Professor Rezaul Karim hacked to death” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Bangladesh Police Suspect Islamist Militants in Professor’s Killing” (The New York Times)
“Bangladesh professor hacked to death by Islamist militants” (Reuters)
(Image Credit: Md. Abdullah Iqbal/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images, via The New York Times)
Four LGBT activists detained in Dhaka after attempting to join new year festivities
- The four members of Roopbaan, a Bangladeshi LGBT rights group, were arrested for attempting to join Bengali New Year processions under suspicion of illegal assembly.
- The four were released after their families arrived to retrieve them, when police reportedly told their families they were gay.
- Roopbaan had attempted to arrange a “rainbow rally” weeks earlier but police had denied permission after fundamentalists issued threats of violence.
“Bangladesh: Police Detain LGBT Members at Pahela Boishakh Rally” (BenarNews)
“Boishakh ‘rainbow rally’ cancelled” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Four gay activists freed in Bangladesh” (Firstpost)
(Image Credit: AFP via BenarNews)
Protests planned after secular Bangladeshi blogger killed by suspected Islamist militants in Dhaka
- Nazimuddin Samad, a law student at a Dhaka university, was attacked at night by a group of machete-wielding men while returning home from class.
- An online activist group described Samad as “a loud voice against all injustice and also a great supporter of secularism,” and students at Jagannath University have called for demonstrations in protest of his murder.
- The murder follows six similar killings in 2015 and attacks on foreign nationals in Bangladesh.
“JnU student killed in suspected militant attack” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Liberal Bangladeshi blogger killed by machete-wielding attackers” (Reuters)
“Strike at Jagannath University on Sunday to protest Nazim murder” (bdnews24.com)
(Image Credit: via Dhaka Tribune)
Bangladesh High Court rejects 28-year-old petition to remove Islam as state religion
- The court ruled that the 15 petitioners (10 of whom have died since filing suit) didn’t have the standing to bring the issue before the court.
- Bangladesh was initially established as a constitutionally secular country upon gaining independence from Pakistan in 1971, but constitutional revision under military rule established Islam as the state religion in 1988.
- Despite the reaffirmation of secularism as a political principle in 2011, religious and ideological minorities, including secularists and atheists, have increasingly come under attack as Islamic fundamentalism has begun gaining a foothold in the country.
“In 2 Minutes, Bangladesh Rejects 28-Year-Old Challenge to Islam’s Role” (The New York Times)
“HC rejects writ on state religion” (Dhaka Tribune)
“Bangladesh continues with Islam as state religion” (newsnextbd.com)
(Image Credit: A.M. Ahad/Associated Press, via The New York Times)
Sewing Clothes, Sewing Futures
A new initiative is providing Bangladeshi women working in garment factories with the opportunity to earn a college education. Through a partnership with the Asian University for Women (AUW), garment factories, many affiliated with popular global brands, are sending select workers to school while maintaining their pay. Factories’ reputations have taken a blow in the fallout from the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, and some employers are keen on improving their public image through social responsibility initiatives. The Guardian takes a look at the program and a few of its bright young student-workers.
“Dresses to degrees: university opens its doors to Bangladesh garment workers” (The Guardian)
(Image Credit: David Levene/The Guardian)