For the fourth time since the beginning of the year, an atheist blogger has been killed in Bangladesh.
Following Dr. Avijit Roy in February, Washiqur Rahman in March, and Ananta Bijoy Das in May — and apparently a brief respite during Ramadan — tragedy struck again yesterday in Dhaka when 40-year-old Niloy Chatterjee, an organizer of Science and Rationalists’ Association of India, was assassinated.
Chatterjee (who often wrote as Niloy Neel) was found decapitated in his home, with his hands cut off. His assailants (between four and six of them depending on which report you read) apparently got entry into his apartment by posing as tenants.
[International Humanist and Ethical Union] President Andrew Copson said, “This latest murder demonstrates once again that the culture of impunity for these Islamist vigilantes in Bangladesh has become firmly entrenched. Humanists internationally are calling on global civil society and democratic governments to stand with the bloggers of Bangladesh whose rights to freedom of religion or belief, to freedom of expression, and to life are being routinely negated. Freedom of speech and the rule of law are being undermined and the Government of Bangladesh needs to act to restore them or continue to lose some of its bravest, most thoughtful, and inspiring citizens, to its continuing shame.”
Neel, along with a couple of the other murdered writers, grew up in a Hindu home. His biggest crime, according to one activist, was “demanding justice for [the] killing of other bloggers.”
The scariest part — besides the fact the Bangladeshi government doesn’t seem to give a damn about any of this — is that Neel may not be the last victim:
All four men killed were on a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” drawn up by Islamic groups in 2013 and widely circulated.
It was originally submitted to the government with the aim of having the bloggers arrested and tried for blasphemy. The groups which wanted bloggers arrested told us they have no knowledge of who is behind the killings.
No one has been arrested yet.
***Update***: The American Humanist Association demands an end to the slaughter:
Yesterday, the American Humanist Association called upon its members and supporters to contact Congress in favor of House Resolution 396, which would support the fair treatment of atheists and religious minorities in Bangladesh. The American Humanist Association, along with the Center for Inquiry and the Secular Coalition for America, also hosted a Congressional briefing in June to educate legislators and their staff about the dire need for religious freedom in Bangladesh and other parts of the world.
The Center For Inquiry reiterated its support for that resolution:
“What was already a human rights crisis has now spun entirely out of control, and it is now long overdue for the government of Bangladesh to take seriously its moral responsibility to protect the lives of its people,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). “But this problem goes deeper than just Bangladesh. The world can no longer sit by and allow this global crackdown on free expression, by both terror groups and states alike, to continue. The rights to free expression and dissent must be protected and cherished, and these killings must be stopped now.”
CFI this week publicly backed a U.S. House resolution introduced by Rep. Tusli Gabbard (D-HI), which calls upon Bangladesh to curb violent extremism and protect religious minorities, including the nonreligious.
***Update 2***: Mutko-Mona, the website many of the Bangladeshi bloggers wrote for, issued this statement:
Following the murders of Rajeeb Haider, Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahmna, and Ananta Bijoy Das, today, the Mukto-Mona writer, blogger, and activist Niloy Neel has been hacked to death. He wrote in Mutko-Mona as well as in Istishon, and Facebook under the name of “Niloy Neel” (twitter: #NiloyNeel). In addition to writing, Niloy Neel was involved in various social justice movements and was the founder of the Bangladesh Science and Rationalists Association.
Ansar Al Islam, the Bangladesh branch of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has claimed responsibility for murdering Niloy Neel in his own home, in front of his family, because of his writing. The fundamentalists continue in their tradition of responding to the pen with machetes; the government of Bangladesh continues to supply the fundamentalists with all that is necessary to keep their machetes honed. One by one the enlightened, the freethinking writers, and activists of Bangladesh, are being brutally murdered. Their only crime is taking a stand against injustice, and superstitions prevalent in society. A machete may kill, in a cowardly manner, a human being of flesh and bone; it cannot kill their ideology. Our fight will continue. With all our strength we will continue to speak our minds, our dreams. For as long as there is even a single member of the freethinking community alive; for as long as a single sentence written by freethinking writers survives.
On May 15, 2015, Niloy had been followed by some people when he was returning from participating in a protest rally for the murder of Ananta Bijoy Das. When he realized what was happening, he had gone to the police station to file a General Diary (GD). His GD was not accepted. He posted in detail about this incident on Facebook, where he expressed fear that his life was under threat. With his life he has proved that people who are atheists, non-religionists, secular, anti-fundamentalist, and pro-freedom-of-speech are not safe in Bangladesh; as if they have no other choice than to leave their country. They are not safe even in their own homes — Niloy Neel was murdered in his house. One man gained entrance to his house by pretending to be there to rent an apartment; then others entered, locked everyone in the house in one room, while hacking Niloy to death in the other. Niloy died right there; his blood spattered over all the books he loved, his computer.
The Mukto-Mona family will always remain by the side of Niloy Neel’s family. The pain of losing a child or a husband in this untimely and brutal manner is not to be forgotten. But know that there are thousands of us beside you — and we will be there forever. To send any information about Niloy Neel, and for Niloy’s family to contact Mukto-Mona for any support, please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Mukto-Mona] strongly condemns the continuing murders of writers, bloggers, and humanists. We call to the government of Bangladesh: Do not pander to fundamentalism anymore. Because no state has been spared by compromising with fundamentalists. Take immediate and effective steps to quell fundamentalism, and to create public awareness against it.
***Update 3***: The PEN American Center issued this statement:
“Niloy’s murder today indicates two equally terrifying trends: the rise of extremist attacks against writers in Bangladesh and the government’s inability or unwillingness to stop it,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression Programs at PEN American Center. “The authorities in Bangladesh have a duty not only to investigate these vicious murders and bring perpetrators to justice, but to put a stop to this sickening string of violence and provide protection for secular bloggers and all writers at risk before they are attacked.”
(This post has been edited since initially being posted.)