A program of the Center for Inquiry
Four down. Eighty to go. That is according to the list of eighty-four “atheist bloggers” created by Islamist groups in 2013 and distributed with the aim of having these people arrested for blasphemy. When the Bangladeshi government would not arrest innocent people, Islamist extremists began taking matters into their own hands. Literally.
In less than six months, four secular bloggers have been attacked and killed by machete-wielding men in Bangladesh. The first this year and most prominent was Avijit Roy in February, who was attacked on the streets of Dhaka with his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed. Roy founded a blog critical of religion that brought freethinkers, atheists, and the like of Bengali descent together. The most recent was Niloy Neel, who was brutally slaughtered in his own home with his wife confined in another room. Neel often discussed religion on Facebook and helped found the Bangladesh Rationalist Society. Six men entered Neel’s home under false pretenses of becoming tenants when two of them took Neel into a room and beheaded him with machetes. Police had previously ignored Neel’s reports claiming his life was in danger.
While attacks of this nature have occurred in Bangladesh over the years, the frequency and brutality have increased significantly. Prior to 2015, there were six significant attacks resulting in only two deaths over a period of fifteen years. We’ve seen four attacks all resulting in the deaths of secular bloggers in less than six months. All of these attacks were due to people publicly raising a secular voice against extremism and encouraging equal rights for all.
Bangladesh’s government and police have shown a cool indifference to these attacks by Islamist militants. Only two people have been arrested in connection to any of the murders this year, and not one person has been charged with a crime. As with Neel, police are not responding to impending threats ahead of attacks on any people on this list. Those behind these attacks will only continue as long as there is no recourse for their actions.
The Center for Inquiry and the U.S. government are calling upon Bangladesh to aggressively act to end future attacks on nonreligious people and protect all religious minorities in their country. It is important that the safety of all people in Bangladesh does not solely fall on CFI or external entities. The people of Bangladesh need to demand equal treatment and protection from their government. People and groups of the world need to stand in outrage of these acts as they have done with other human rights violations.