Activists are expressing outrage in the wake of the second brutal murder of a blogger in Bangladesh in recent weeks.
Monday morning, blogger Oyasiqur Rahman was attacked by three men with large knives in the streets near his Dhaka home. Police arrested two suspects at the scene, identified as students at two separate madrassas — or religious schools. Police are hunting a third man who escaped. Authorities said the two arrestees confessed to killing Rahman because of his religious writings.
Rahman, who worked in a travel agency, was not professional journalist, but he did use a variety of pseudonyms to post comments and articles by other writers critical of religious extremism. On Facebook, he used the name Oyasiqur Babu, and he had recently changed his profile picture to the hashtag #Iamavijit, in honor of prominent Bangladeshi-American writer and blogger Avijit Roy, an atheist who, as RePRESSed earlier reported, was killed in a similar attack in late February.
The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka posted this statement on its Facebook page Tuesday:
We are horrified and deeply saddened by the murder of Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, and we offer our condolences to his family and friends. There is no excuse for such barbaric attacks which are a direct assault upon universal human rights and undermine freedom of expression. We stand in solidarity with the people of Bangladesh as they confront religious intolerance and violence.
The UN in Bangladesh also expressed horror over the killing, which UN resident coordinator Robert Watkins said is part of a worrying trend of attacks against activists in the country.
“While noting the on-going police investigation, the UN is concerned that this brutal murder contributes to a reduction in the freedom of expression and opinion in the country,” Watkins said in an online statement.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is callling on the government of Bangladesh to conduct a thorough and timely investigation into this and other attacks, in order to protect the country’s journalists against future attacks.
Bangladesh has seen a spate of such attacks in recent years, almost all of them over religious issues.
In January 2013, blogger Asif Mohiuddin, who also criticized religious fundamentalism, was stabbed but did not die.
In February 2013, blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was hacked to death by members of an Islamist militant group called the Ansarullah Bengali Team. Later the same year, Islamist groups called for the execution of bloggers they said had committed blasphemy. While arrests were made after those murders, there have been no convictions.