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Eight years since Avijit Roy’s assassination

Eight years since Avijit Roy’s assassination

Today, February 26, 2023, marks eight years since Avijit Roy’s assassination.

He was killed for being an outspoken advocate of reason and science. On the evening of February 26, 2015, author and founder of Bangladeshi freethought website Avijit Roy was killed by the militant group Ansarullah, on his way home from the most sacred sanctuary for a Bengali writer, the Ekushe Book Fair. He paid the price for exposing religious bigotry.

Secular activists across the world felt a personal loss, though most had never read Avijit’s work. He mostly wrote in Bengali. Yet everyone felt the pain of losing a member of the atheist/humanist activist family, murdered for speaking truth to religious zealots. For people like us, those who knew him and wrote with him, this loss couldn’t be expressed in human terms.

The murder of Avijit Roy marked the beginning of a spate of killings in Bangladesh. In the coming months, machete-wielding assailants, in the name of their religion, slaughtered secular bloggers, publishers, university teachers, and free-thinker activists one by one.

On March 30 Washiqur Rahman was attacked and killed near his home.

Ananta Bijoy Das, a writer linked to the Mukto-Mona website, was hacked to death by militants in broad daylight in Sylhet on May 12, 2015.

Blogger Niloy Neel, also known as Niloy Chowdhury, was murdered in his apartment in Bangladesh’s capital on August 7, 2015.

On October 31, 2015, a group of men stabbed Faisal Arefin Dipan, a publisher, to death for publishing freethinking books. Publisher Ahmedur Chowdhury Tutul and author Ranadipam Basu were attacked on the same day.

Nazimuddin Samad was hacked and killed with machetes at a traffic junction on April 7, 2016.

On April 25, 2016, Mahbub Tonoy and Xulhaz Mannan were killed.

On April 23, 2016, Rezaul Karim Siddique, a 58-year-old English professor, was attacked from behind with machetes (as per Islamic law) and murdered.

On 11 June 2018, Shahzahan Bachchu, 60, was dragged out of a shop in his ancestral village by assailants and shot dead.

Bloggers met their death in the most heinous way possible, and in the name of Sharia, by repeated machete hacks to the back of the neck. They were murdered, in many cases, in front of their loved ones.

The government is unwilling to ensure the safety of secular bloggers, and an environment of impunity prevails for those believed to be the masterminds behind the killings. The government, instead of safety, has created several legal provisions, namely Digital Security Act 2018, that persecute atheist and secular bloggers and activists.

Yet the Bangladeshi atheist activists continue to fight authoritarian ideologies. Bangladesh is a country with many blasphemy cases. Atheist Alliance International is currently supporting nearly a dozen victims of blasphemy laws in Bangladesh. This number continues to increase because of the never-to-give-up nature of the Bangladeshi secular activist community.

You can become an AAI supporter to help us support Bangladeshi bloggers and victims of blasphemy laws.

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Tonoy is a member of the board of directors at Atheist Alliance International.