Showing posts with label Bangladesh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bangladesh. Show all posts

December 5, 2016

Bangladesh LGBT Remain Hiding After Dash Attacked 7 Moths Ago



Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, an English professor at Rajshahi University, was found hacked to death near his home on Saturday, April 23 in Rajshahi, a northern district of Bangladesh. His death is the second targeted killing purportedly at the hands of Islamist militants this month.




 {BANGKOK} Seven months after al Qaeda-linked militants hacked Bangladesh’s most prominent gay activist to death, the South Asian country’s LGBT community remains in hiding, while more than a dozen LGBT people have fled abroad.

"The whole community has been sent back to the closet," a gay activist in exile told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on condition of anonymity because he fears for his safety.

"Any kind of work - whatever we had been doing - it has been completely shut down. There is no movement, no visibility, no work. It is a horrible situation. We have never imagined the situation would be like this."

Bangladesh's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community was already marginalized, with gay sex being illegal, punishable by a maximum of life in prison.

Then there was a coming out of sorts with the 2014 launch of the country's first LGBT-themed magazine, Roopbaan, which became a subject of interest in the media and on social media, prompting a backlash and threats.

The community suffered escalating threats and then on April 25, Xulhaz Mannan, the founder and publisher of Roopbaan, and gay actor Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy were hacked to death at Mannan's home in Dhaka.

The attack, claimed by the regional arm of al Qaeda, was the first of its kind to target the LGBT community, although it followed more than 30 killings since early 2015 of academics, bloggers and atheists who published views critical of Islam.

"We had been very visible over past two years. A huge number of young people came up and volunteered for our work. After this one incident... the whole community collapsed," the activist told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of an international LGBT conference in Bangkok last week.

"This one incident broke the sense of security. More than 15 people left the country. More than 10 want to leave. People in Bangladesh don't want to talk to us. The whole community is so scattered and scared."

Those who have fled abroad are slowly reconnecting and trying to organize a meeting to assess the situation, but those remaining in Bangladesh still are not ready, he said.

The activist asked to conceal his identity because he fears being killed, yet feels he is has been given a "second life" and wants to speak out because many people around the world know about discrimination LGBT people face in Uganda, Indonesia and Malaysia, but few know about Bangladesh.

"People talk about many other countries - but Bangladesh never comes up," he said. "What happened is brutal - they martyred the whole movement. I feel sad, but I also feel furious, more determined. We have to do something to challenge this brutality."

But now, having left the country just days before Mannan was killed, he is just trying to stay alive.

"This is maybe my second life. I have some responsibility. I won't stop. I won't die. I hope one day, I will see the community we created - maybe after five years, maybe after 10 years, but I don't want to die before that."

More than 700 LGBT people from around the world convened in Bangkok last week for a conference organized by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

Founded in 1978 and based in Geneva, ILGA is a federation of 1,200 member organization from 125 countries campaigning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights.

(Reporting by Alisa Tang @alisatang, editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

(Thomson Reuters Foundation) 

Read the original article on Reuters. Copyright 2016. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

July 4, 2016

The Butchers of Bangladesh were Home Grown from Wealthy Families



Image: ISIS Claims Responsibility For Bangladesh Cafe Attack

The seven terrorists who attacked an upscale cafe in Dhaka and butchered 20 hostages were Bangladeshi citizens, authorities said on Sunday.

Bangladesh home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the attackers, who were armed with sharpened weapons and firearms, were not linked to the Islamic State militant group, which has claimed the assault.

“Let me clear it again, there are no ISIS (an acronym for the Islamic State) or al Qaeda presence or existence in Bangladesh…the hostage-takers were all home-grown terrorists, not members of ISIS or any other international Islamist outfits,” he said, identifying the attackers as being part of the banned Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB).

“They are all Bangladeshis. They are from rich families, they have good educational background,” the minister told news agency Associated Press.

Khan said “it has become a fashion” to become militants, The Daily Star reported.
Police chief Shahidul Hoque said investigators will explore the possibility of “an international link”, but added “primarily, we suspect they are JMB members”.
In recent months, Bangladesh has seen a spate of attacks targeting the minority Hindus, gays, secular bloggers, intellectuals and foreign nationals. Even though the IS and al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for many of the attacks, the government has maintained the groups have no presence in Bangladesh.

The US-based SITE intelligence group released photos of the attackers who laid siege to the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter on Friday night, the Bangladeshi media said.
“The identities of the persons in the undated photos were not provided,” bdnews24.com reported. “Another group of terrorism observers, Terrorism Monitor, identified the same persons as Abu Omar, Abu Salmah, Abu Rahim, Abu Muslim and Abu Muharib al-Bengali.”

 [Dhaka attackers spared hostages who could recite Quran verses: Survivor]
The report said police, too, released photos of the attackers — six of them were killed and one taken alive after a 12-hour siege at the popular restaurant.

“Four persons seemed to be in both sets of photos published by police and IS,” the report said.
Five of the gunmen shot dead were listed as militants and police had been looking for them. They were identified as Akash, Bikash, Don, Bandhon and Ripon, police said.
A law enforcement source told the Dhaka Tribune that “all of them (attackers) were Bangladeshi nationals aged between 20 and 28”.

“All of them were students and communicated at the crime scene in both Bengali and English,” the report quoted the source as saying.
Classmates in Bangladesh’s North South University, an expensive private institution, identified one of the attackers as Nibras Islam, bdnews24.com reported. The university authorities could not be reached for comment.

“An expatriate Bangladeshi has posted on Facebook a photo of one Mir Sabih Mubashsher along with the photo of an attacker,” it added.
He quoted one of Mubashsher’s classmates in Scholastica School in Dhaka as saying that Mubashsher went missing in March before his A-Level exam, an IANS report said.



June 3, 2016

Gay in Bangladesh is to Survive Abuses Wrapped on Machete Attacks




"People in Dhaka are now saying that Xulhaz made us gay," says the frightened voice across the line. "Xulhaz and Tonoy did not make anyone gay. We are gay because that's the way we were born. There's nothing anti-Bangladeshi or unnatural about being different, but the prejudice is steep."

This is the first time that Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy's friend, who I will not name for his own safety, has lost anyone close to him. It's 2 AM in Dhaka, but he has been unable to sleep properly since Tonoy, an activist, was murdered, alongside former US embassy employee Xulhaz Mannan, by half a dozen machete-wielding extremists in Bangladesh on April 25. The Bangladeshi government claims that the extremists were homegrown, while al Qaeda and ISIS, along with religious extremist groups in Bangladesh, take credit for the dozens of public executions around the country. Extremists have issued warnings that the killings will continue, and that those who report on LGBT issues will be hunted down. Many members of the LGBT community remain in hiding as a result of these attacks, and the prejudice displayed by many of the country's ordinary citizens.

Mannan and Tonoy were both involved in Roopbaan, Bangladesh's only LGBT magazine. Over the last year, Roopbaan became very visible in Bangladesh, starting a nationwide youth leadership program, an online platform, a film festival, and an HIV awareness and testing program called Pink Slip.

"My bosses laugh at the fact that Xulhaz and Tonoy were unmarried. They say the two 'deserved' their fate because they were homosexual. My bosses don't even know that I am gay, and neither does my family," the friend confides. "Imagine having to hide grief like this? Now I have nothing. No life. No future."

Since the murders, two terror cells were uncovered, and an alleged killer was arrested. However, for those of us who knew Mannan and Tonoy, memories of traveling freely around Dhaka, eating biryani, playing card games, attending gallery exhibits and classical music concerts, or sitting under the bamboo groves in the botanical garden have become soiled. After the murders, gay friends felt there is little solidarity with their cause within the country. Sometimes, causes like free speech and LGBT rights are derided as being part of a Western hegemony, but this is just muddying the rhetorical waters: Foreign powers do not need to manipulate people into wanting to be able to walk down the street without harassment and speak without being killed.

The double homicide marked the first time in the three-year-long wave of radical Islamist murders that the gay community has been targeted. For those of us who knew the two men, the aftermath has been a reminder of the hierarchies placed on which lives are deemed worthy of mourning in Bangladesh. Vigils were held in Paris, London, and New York after the murders, but none were held in Bangladesh.
When the machete attacks on Bangladeshi intellectuals began three years ago, Bangladeshi authorities were initially silent.

The government only spoke up after the death of blogger Niloy Neel at his home in the fall of 2015. And even then, Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh's prime minister, called the writing of bloggers "filthy words." "You can't attack someone else's religion," warned Hasina. "You'll have to stop doing this. It won't be tolerated if someone else's religious sentiment is hurt."

In this climate, it isn't surprising that the attacks have continued. Just days before the murders of my friends, a university professor with a love of classical music was killed. In quick succession following these murders, a Buddhist monk, a Hindu tailor, and a homeopathic doctor were also hacked to death. After a law student in Bangladesh was murdered this May, the government wondered whether the death could be justified based on the online writings of the student.

These deaths showcase how expendable life remains in the country. Terrorists falsely claiming Islam as their guide cannot be further justified by Bangladesh's government.

"We are being attacked on all sides. Locals are allowing it. Those who condemn the murders are being silenced." —A friend of Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy

Amid this targeting of minorities, Bangladesh's government seems either incapable or unwilling to effectively condemn the murders. Blaming homegrown extremism at the hands of its opposition parties, the government has also vilified the legacies of the murder victims instead.

After Mannan was murdered, US Secretary of State John Kerry shared his security concerns about growing extremism with Sheikh Hasina over the phone. Soon after, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal traveled to Bangladesh to discuss security issues, meeting with Bangladesh's Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal. Afterward, Khan was reported as saying, "Our society does not allow any movement that promotes unnatural sex. Writing in favor of it is tantamount to criminal offense as per our law."

This, then, has been the government's response to a murder epidemic: to blame the victim, and legitimize the slurs hurled at marginalized communities.

"The government wants to hold onto its religious base by wrongfully suggesting that we are not Muslim," says one of Roopbaan's co-founders, who, like Tonoy's friend, also wishes to remain anonymous. "This pacifies the extremists and legitimizes the killings.

"Tonoy refused to talk about the threats, although he received dozens of threats," says Tonoy's friend. "Now we are being killed, and talking about how scared we are or writing about it is criminal? We are being attacked on all sides. Locals are allowing it. Those who condemn the murders are being silenced."

These fears are palpable in a country where freedom of speech is increasingly under assault. Recently, Bangladesh's government tightened the noose by announcing that it has proposed plans to create a "Cyber Threat Detection and Response Network." The $19 million scheme, if approved, would promote around-the-clock online surveillance of citizens, effectively allowing the government to block and remove any online content it deems unfit for national viewership.

This allocation of resources is misguided, given Bangladesh's more pressing problems—66 percent of the country's girls are married before they reach the age of 18, and poverty is rampant. Sustainable measures to tackle these issues have not been scaled up adequately to create widespread impact: Consider that half of Bangladesh's roughly 163 million are female. This means more than 40 million women are married before they reach 18. Poor feeding practices, alongside teenage pregnancies, arise in intergenerational stunting in a staggering 41 percent of the overall population, across all social demographics. These problems arise even though the government depends heavily on foreign aid and nonprofits to provide basic services such as vaccines, education, and health interventions, and received $2.6 billion in 2013 alone.

Despite this, the plans to monitor content on social media and international sites, under the guise of tackling "cyber crimes," continues, raising concerns. Some believe it to be a ploy by the supposedly liberal Awami League government to curb freedom of speech. Late last year, the government blocked social media sites for 22 days, and in the fall of 2013, YouTube was blocked for several months.

Individuals have been targeted as well. In December 2015, the administrator of a popular satirical Facebook page, "Moja Losss" ("Lost Fun") was arrested for allegedly mocking the government. The arrest came in the form of a raid carried out by Bangladesh's super paramilitary force, AK-47s in hand. Mahfuz Anam, the prominent editor of Bangladesh's largest English daily the Daily Star, was slapped with 79 sedition and defamation charges amounting to an alleged $17 billion, as of February.

Little has been made of social media's instrumental role in aiding growing fanaticism in Bangladesh. Ten days before the murders of Mannan and Tonoy, a Facebook group called "Voice of Bangladesh" promised violence if the LGBT community took part in the annual April New Year's parade.

Citing the Facebook group, police ordered Mannan to stop the community from participating in the national parade. The next day, on April 14, four gay activists were arrested when they did not comply and marched in the rally. Mannan stayed in the police precinct until his friends were released from custody.

"Why should I be scared?" Mannan wrote to me last year. "I'm human, and I cannot hide who I am."

The question as to why Facebook would even allow such a group to exist remains unanswered. Those within the LGBT community in Bangladesh and in West Bengal, repeatedly reported this group to Facebook, but it remains active. (Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.)

Meanwhile, another social media group called "Salauddiner Ghora" ("Salauddiner's Horse"), which is affiliated with extremist groups, released a YouTube video of the gruesome aftermath of Mannan's murder. The video shows Mannan's lifeless body being dragged by curious onlookers outside his home prior to police arrival. Mannan's mother—a severe Alzheimer's patient who was forced to witness the murders—is then seen covering the protruding gray matter, pushing it back into Mannan's head.

This graphic video remains online, even though human rights groups lodged complaints to YouTube. Salauddiner Ghora lauds the public executions on Facebook and Twitter. They have even published faces of the next targets, while suggesting anyone involved in the future killings of "non-believers" will go to heaven for "doing the work of God."

"These pages are in Bengali. Is that the reason why these social media sites haven't responded?" asks Roopbaan's co-founder.

Earlier this week, the original Salauddiner Ghora Facebook group was finally taken down. But, as of Wednesday, a new one has been started.

Following the April arrests, Mannan called for a top-level security meeting with all the leaders and allies of the LGBT community. They began to check in with one another daily. They curtailed going to events at night.

Mannan delivered a last youth leadership lecture on Roopbaan just a week before his murder, in tandem with a photography art exhibit in Dhaka. Unaware that he was being followed around, he took an open rickshaw to his house.

"Just the fact that we were being watched for weeks is chilling," says Roopbaan's co-founder, who was with Mannan at the time. "Despite our fear after the arrests, we spoke normally and had a good time. It was the last time I saw him alive."

"Tonoy's last production was a theatrical representation of Siraj ud-Daulah, the last king of Bengal before the British invaded the country and began colonizing it," says his friend. "He performed it on Saturday. Then Sunday was Tonoy's birthday. He treated his friends for dinner, but he refused to cut a cake because he cut two cakes last year. If we had known it was his last night, we would have stayed with him longer. He was murdered the next day. Now we are scared to visit his grave or reach out to his family."

Despite the murders, the extremism, and the victim-blaming, many in Bangladesh's LGBT community remain committed to furthering the dialogue.

In the last two years, Bangladesh's first lesbian comic book Project Dhee was launched, alongside theatrical performances and art exhibits, poetry anthologies, and a documentary film about the Rainbow Rally, a diversity-promoting New Year's Day celebration started by Mannan. Bangladesh even recognizes "hijras"—a term used in the region to refer to trans people—under the law.

"Why should I be scared?" Mannan wrote to me last year. "I cannot live in fear. I'm human, and I cannot hide who I am."

But the persecution has unquestionably made life harder for many, and resulted in severe chaos.

"There is a lot of misinformation going around. Many [unaffiliated Bangladeshis] who are panicked are claiming affiliations with us so as to receive asylum in countries like Germany. They have never worked directly with anyone in the LGBT community in Dhaka, and it is regrettable that they are taking advantage of this situation," says one of Roopbaan's two surviving co-founders.

"When will the government do something to help us? After we have all been killed?" asks Roopbaan's other surviving co-founder. "We deserve to be protected, not exiled and silenced, alongside remaining voiceless forever."

Raad Rahman is a communications, advocacy, and partnerships specialist who has consulted extensively with UNICEF in Bangladesh.

May 16, 2016

Arrest on Hacking to Death of Gay Activist in Bangladesh


                                                                          
Members of Bangladesh Police Detective Branch (DB) escort a man, center, whom they have identified as Shariful Islam Shihab, a former member of the banned Islamic group Harkatul Jihad as they walk him in front of the media in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sunday, May 15, 2016. Police said Sunday that they have arrested Shihab, a suspected Muslim militant for his alleged involvement in the killing last month of a gay rights activist and his friend in the capital. (AP Photo)


Members of Bangladesh Police Detective Branch (DB) escort a man, center, whom they have identified as Shariful Islam Shihab, a former member of the banned Islamic group Harkatul Jihad as they walk him in front of the media in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sunday, May 15, 2016. Police said Sunday that they have arrested Shihab, a suspected Muslim militant for his alleged involvement in the killing last month of a gay rights activist and his friend in the capital. (AP Photo) 

[Original story of murder on Gay Activist-click here]



Officers identified the suspect as Shariful Islam Shibab, a former member of a banned Islamic group, Harkatul Jihad, who joined another militant group, Ansarullah Bangla Team, in mid-2015.
Munirul Islam, head of a newly formed police counter-terrorism unit, told a news conference that Shibab was arrested in the south-western district of Kushtia based on evidence from the investigation.

The Bangladeshi branch of al Qaida had claimed the April 25 killing of Xulhaz Mannan, an employee of the US Agency for International Development, and his friend Tanay Majumder in the Bangladeshi capital.
Only one of 15 such killings has been prosecuted since 2013.

Mr Islam said 37-year-old Shihab allegedly killed Mr Mannan because he promoted the gay community's cause through a magazine as an editor.
He said Shihab told police during questioning that he took part in stabbing Mr Mannan and Mr Majumder as ordered by his group's high command.

Police said earlier that they had identified at least five people who took part in the killings from video footage collected from buildings near the crime scene in the Kalabagan district.
"We are checking the footage to determine whether Shihab is visible there," Mr Islam said.

Mr Mannan was a cousin of former foreign minister Dipu Moni, of the governing Awami League party.

Online Editors
independent.ie

Bangladesh police chiefs have said their murders have the hallmarks of local Islamists, while the secular government has blamed the opposition.
Several members of homegrown Ansarullah Bangla Team were convicted last year over the 2013 murder of atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider.
- Monk murder -
The arrest comes after an elderly Buddhist monk was found hacked to death on Saturday in a temple in the southeastern district of Bandarban -- the seventh such killing since the start of last month.
Two Muslim Rohingya refugees, who fled persecution in Myanmar, and a member of the Chak ethnic community to which the monk belonged are being held for questioning over his murder, local police inspector Anisur Rahman told AFP.
Suspected Islamists have been blamed or claimed responsibility for the scores of murders carried out since last year, as fear grips the Muslim-majority nation over the rising violence.
Last year four secular bloggers and a publisher were hacked to death, while Christians, Hindus and Sufi, Ahmadi and Shiite Muslims have also been killed since.
No one has yet been convicted over those deaths, despite a number of arrests.
The Islamic State group has claimed a number of the killings, but authorities insist there is no evidence of the group's presence in Bangladesh.
A long-running political crisis in Bangladesh has radicalised opponents of the government and analysts say Islamist extremists pose a growing danger.                                           

The question we most try to answer now is:  Is there going to be a prosecution for this hideous crime, which for killings of the LGBT community is not rare. The suspect was caught in record time thanks to the pressure from the US, UN and others. Let’s hope the process continues and that the government can prove if this is the right suspect and if he acted alone and if not, where are the others?

May 3, 2016

Gay Activist Murder in Bangladesh is Getting Attention, US to Help


Follow up: Previous(click)The-hacking-to-death-of-activists

                                                                        
USAID staffer and a former assistant protocol officer at the US embassy Xulhaz and theatre activist Tonoy were hacked to death on Apr 25 by unidentified assailants who had entered their Kalabagan home in Dhaka posing as couriers.
Xulhaz was also an editor of Bangladesh's first gay-rights advocating magazine, ‘Roopban’, and a cousin of former foreign minister Dipu Moni.
Metropolitan Magistrate Nurunnahar Yasmin gave the order allowing the CID to examine the evidence on Apr 28. But it was known only on Monday.
Court police’s General Recording Officer Md Shahid told bdnews24.com that Kalabagan Police Station’s Inspector KM Ashrafuddin and SI Ansar Ali had moved the court seeking permission to examine the evidence related to the murder and recovery of the weapons respectively.
Accordingly, the court gave the go-ahead.
The body of evidence includes the two cartons the assailants took to the house posing as couriers and the materials, including a pistol and machetes, found inside the bag that was snatched from one of the fleeing attackers by a policeman.
While the AQIS (Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent) has claimed responsibility for the murders, the Bangladesh government has refused to buy their claim.
The US has pledged support to the probe. Speaking to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina over phone on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry sought the arrest of those involved in the crime.

April 29, 2016

The Hacking To Death of Activists in a Secretive Community which Will Make it More Secret

Follow up on ISIS Hacks to Death Gay….



                                                                            
Xulhaz Mannan.jpg
Xulhaz Mannan
BornOctober 13, 1976
DiedApril 25, 2016 (aged 39)
Dhaka, Bangladesh wikipedia
                                  
“To run a magazine about LGBT issues, to campaign on these issues in Bangladesh, you have to be a very brave person, very bold,” says photographer Gazi Nafis Ahmed. “Xulhaz Mannan was the one who made Roopbaan magazine happen. He was a very special man.”
Speaking to the Guardian shortly after Xulhaz Mannan’s murder by Islamist extremists, Ahmed explained that it was the repression of the LGBT community in his home country of Bangladesh that had inspired his own work, a long-term photography project entitled Inner Face. 
“I studied photography in Denmark and saw there what sexual liberty was like in western countries. It was amazing.” After he finished his degree he began to photograph the LGBT community in Bangladesh. “There were an amazing amount of men who were brave enough and said to me that ‘we want to go for it, we want to get our voices out there’. In Bangladesh it is not easy for the LGBTQ community people to practice their freedom of expression as in many other countries. But I felt that, through my art, these human beings could have the choice to have their voices out there.”

A Secret Bangladesh a secret LGBT try to shine some light for others in the shadows
Ahmed began his project, photographing the members of the underground LGBT community, and, where possible, recording their stories, back in 2008. He approached the Bandhu Social Welfare Society which address concerns of human rights abuse and denial of sexual health rights, and provide a rights-based approach to health and social services for the most stigmatized and vulnerable populations in Bangladesh. “They helped me to make connections and get in touch with people and, over the years that followed,my network expanded.
“The LGBT scene in Bangladesh is very, very underground. There are essentially two different social groups. The upper/middle classes. They refer to themselves as gay, they have access to the internet, they’re part of the global network of gay communities and have friends all over the world.” This group set up an online Yahoo peer-networking group the Boys of Bangladesh (BOB) a few years ago, and help and support each other. 
“And then there is the different social class who don’t refer to themselves as LGBT but as MSM. This is a public health designation which stands for Men Who Have Sex With Men. They are low income – cooks, dancers, rickshaw pullers – and there is huge stigma towards them. My work was with both groups.” 
  As he began to exhibit his photographs both in Bangladesh and overseas, the reactions varied. Some were supportive, others angry, but it was the reaction of the mother of one of his subjects which remained with him: “She spoke at one of the exhibitions, saying that her son was the way he was, and that ‘I accept him, and I would like to see other parents accept their children who identify as LGBT in this way’. It was a very important message, I think.”

From US Embassy to USAid
 At a 2008 exhibition of his work, he met Mannan, who was working at the US embassy at that time and would shortly move on to work at USAid. “He reached out to me, thanked me for working on this project and offered to put me in touch with more people. He was a protocol officer of the US embassy, and then went on to USAID. He also founded and edited Roopbaan.” 
Alam and Kabir grew up in the same village and fell in love; at the time of this photo they had been together for 11 years. “We will go on to prove that two men can spend their lives together in complete happiness.” Photograph: Gazi Nafis Ahmed
Mannan “was very kind hearted, always supportive. If I ever asked him he was always ready to support my work. He always had a smile on his face, always a yes for any favor.” Over the years that followed, Mannan and Ahmed were regularly in touch. “He was a very brave person, out as gay to his friends, his close circle, and at his work. In Bangladesh that is absolutely unusual, especially in upper-class circles. But Mannan wanted to start a discourse around LGBT issues, a subject that is so opposed and so stigmatised in Bangladesh.
 “Bangladesh has a patriarchal, conservative society so that makes it difficult, even the mindset of people makes it more difficult. Having a magazine like Roopbaan and talking about these issues is really brave and bold. And it was Xulhaz who made it happen.”

The Rally
 A couple of weeks ago, Mannan invited all his friends to join him on Roopbaan’s annual Rainbow Rally, timed for April 14 to coincide with the Bangladesh new year. The colorful rally, with the participants dressed different colors of rainbow, aims to celebrate diversity and friendship and ensure the participation of people with different sexual orientations, including hijras, in Pohela Boishakh festivities and promote tolerance among all sexes.
 The plans were laid as usual, but the participants were anxious. Over the last couple of years Bangladesh has seen a growing number of homicidal attacks on liberal bloggers and academics; on April 7 Nazimuddin Samad, a law student who criticised Islamism on his Facebook page, was murdered. By the morning of the Rainbow Rally there had been more and more threats aimed not just at the gay marchers but at the traditional Bengali celebrations which feature garlands of flowers and colourful animal masks. The organisers decided to cancel the event. Police then arrested four of the LGBT activists.

Fatal Mistake? But it was time to come up more to the light 
In the next few days, Ahmed says, Mannan moved the Roopbaan Facebook group from ‘closed’ to ‘secret’. And then, two days ago, a group of six men managed to gain access to his apartment and hacked Mannan and the friend with him to death.
 “It was a terrible shock, for everyone,” says Ahmed. Some observers are not optimistic about the future, fearing, like Ibtisam Ahmed in the Conversation this week, that the government’s cowed reaction to the Islamist campaign of terror over the past couple of years means Bangladesh is “on a precipice … the adversaries of moderation, freedom and rationalism are getting bolder”. 
“Whether you support LGBT rights or not, there can never be any justification for murder,” says Ahmed. “But with so many gruesome assassinations of free minds and intellectuals in the country, it seems like anyone can be a target. No one feels safe, that is the truth.”
 But he has also heard that the next publication of Roopbaan may be delayed but will not stop. “That should be the spirit. People should come forward, together, and ask for action against this.”

“In 2013 the Dhaka Tribune wrote and editorial against section 377 of the criminal code stating their belief that while most people in Bangladesh were against homosexuality, they did not want to see people put in jail for it or for the government to waist resources treating it as a crime.Wikepedia

November 13, 2013

Bangladesh Govm’t Moves to Recognize ‘hijira’ a 3rd Gender




Bangladesh's prime minister announced at a Nov 11 Cabinet meeting that hijras will recognized as a separate gender identity, the Dhaka Tribune reports.
The move will reportedly clear the way for hijras, many of whom do not identify as male or female, to make changes in official documents like passports that more accurately reflect their identity, Pink News reports. Cabinet Secretary Muhammed Musharaff Hossain Bhuiyan says the term hijra will be used as other translations or references would be misleading, the report says.
The Cabinet Secretary indicated there are 10,000 hijras in Bangladesh, noting that they often face discrimination in the areas of housing, education and health. Others say the number of hijras is much higher, anywhere up to 150,000.
Gay Star News quotes activist Omar Kuddus as saying that the specific identification of hijras as envisioned in the new policy could set them up to be targeted for persecution. 
In September, Bangladesh rejected a United Nations recommendation to decriminalize same-sex relationships.

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