Xulhaz Mannan, right, a top gay rights activist and editor of Roopbaan, the country’s only LGBT magazine, was hacked to death yesterday together with another man associated with the publication, Tanay Mojumdar, left.
According to the BBC, the US ambassador to Bangladesh condemned the killing of Mannan, who had recently worked at the US embassy. Marcia Bernicat said:
I am devastated by the brutal murder of Xulhaz Mannan and another young Bangladeshi. We abhor this senseless act of violence and urge the government of Bangladesh in the strongest terms to apprehend the criminals behind these murders.
Pink News reports that Bangladeshi police have detained a college student and claimed to have found some “important evidence” in connection with the savage killings.
The two men were killed two days after a university teacher was hacked to death by suspected Islamist militants.
So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility – but the Bangladeshi government insists there is no IS presence in the country.
BBC Bengali Service editor Sabir Mustafa said staff at Roopbaan, a magazine and activist group for the LGBT community that had not been condemned by the government and received some support from foreign embassies, had been careful to protect their identities but had not believed their lives were at risk.
Suspected extremists in Bangladesh are gaining a sense of security that they can carry out killings with impunity, he says.
A British photographer who knew Mannan and Mojumdar, said they and other friends had set up Roopbaan with the aim of spreading tolerance.
Homosexuality is technically illegal in Bangladesh and remains a highly sensitive issue in society.
Both men were openly gay and believed that if more gay Bangladeshis came out then the country would have to accept them, the photographer said. They were also were behind the annual “Rainbow Rally”, held on Bengali New Year, April 14, since 2014. This year’s rally was banned by police as part of widespread security measures.
The photographer said:
Both were extremely gentle, non-violent and aware that being openly gay and active in their work was a personal danger.
Their killings were likely to spread fear among Bangladesh’s gay community, he added
Until a year ago the only threat to coming out was shame of the family and having to start a new life elsewhere in Bangladesh. Now it’s one of danger.
Meanwhile Bangladesh’s best known blogger said he had received a death threat on Sunday.
Imran Sarker, who led major protests by secular activists in 2013 against Islamist leaders, said he had received a phone call warning that he would be killed “very soon”.
Earlier this month, a Bangladeshi law student who had expressed secular views online died when he was hacked with machetes and then shot in Dhaka.
Last year, four prominent secular bloggers were also killed with machetes.
The four bloggers had all appeared on a list of 84 “atheist bloggers” drawn up by Islamic groups in 2013 and widely circulated.
There have also been attacks on members of religious minorities including Shia, Sufi and Ahmadi Muslims, Christians and Hindus.
Two foreigners – an Italian aid worker and a Japanese farmer – have also been killed.
Muslim-majority Bangladesh is officially secular but critics say the government has failed to properly address the attacks.