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Bangladesh: Action Needed as USCIRF Marks Anniversary of Avijit Roy’s Murder

February 25, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) solemnly marks the one-year anniversary on February 26 of the brutal murder of Avijit Roy, a Bangladeshi-American secular blogger.  Attackers wielding machetes killed Roy after he left a book fair during a visit to Dhaka.  His wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, survived the attack with serious wounds.

USCIRF extends its deepest condolences to the family of Avijit Roy, and calls on the Bangladeshi government to redouble its efforts to investigate this heinous crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.  The government also must take concrete steps to ensure the safety of others who are exercising their rights to freedom of expression and religion or belief,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert P. George.

In addition to Roy, four bloggers and publishers have been murdered this past year including: Washiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das, Niloy Chatterjee, and Faisal Arefin Dipan.  Labeled as apostates and blasphemers, the bloggers were targeted by extremists because of their advocacy of secularism, freedom of thought, religious and communal tolerance, and political transparency and accountability.  A “hit-list” of other bloggers marked for assassination is freely available on the Internet. It includes the names of people associated with translating and disseminating the bloggers’ work.

Bangladesh is at a crossroads. The government of Bangladesh should not stand by idly as religious and communal tensions increase and emboldened extremist groups target for assassination both members of religious communities and advocates of secularism,” said Chairman George. “USCIRF urges the Bangladeshi government to take steps to eliminate religious discrimination and diminish religious and communal tensions and the climate of violence and impunity directed at secular bloggers and religious minorities.  The Commission also urges the U.S. government to provide humanitarian parole for a limited number of Bangladeshi writers at imminent risk of being assassinated by extremist groups.

USCIRF has placed Bangladesh on its “other countries monitored list” since 2013 due to societal discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and violence committed against religious minority communities. Bangladesh was on USCIRF’s “Watch List” from 2005 to 2008. For more information, see USCIRF’s 2015 Annual Report chapter on Bangladesh. Read USCIRF’s January 2016 letter to Secretary John Kerry.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact Travis Horne at thorne@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0615.