Fears stalk Bangladesh bloggers after killing spree

Shammi Haque rarely ventures outside her home in Dhaka

DHAKA – Nervous, pale and sleep deprived, Bangladesh blogger Shammi Haque describes living in constant fear after four of her colleagues were hacked to death this year by suspected militants.

Shammi– a social activist, feminist and atheist writer – rarely ventures outside her home in the capital and receives 24-hour police protection, fearful of being next on the list of machete-wielding attackers.

“I cannot close my eyes without having sleeping pills. Even the noise of the window shutters scares me,” the 22-year-old university student said recently. Bangladesh’s bloggers and secular activists have been in hiding or fled the country since the murders – including that of Niloy Chakrabarti– avocal critic of fundamentalism – in his home in August.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s government has vowed to hunt down the killers, following international outrage and accusations it failed to stop the attacks, wary of a political backlash from the militants. Police have stepped up security for those being threatened and thought to be on the hit-list drawn up by hard line groups.

A string of arrests have been made, and police this week charged five militants of banned outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team over the murder of Washiqur Rahman, the first blogger killed in January.But bloggers including Shammi are unconvinced by the belated efforts and question the government’s sincerity.

Atheist bloggers in Bangladesh

“At least 12 atheist bloggers have fled the country this year. And 70 bloggers have asked for assistance for migration as their lives are at stake,” said Berlin-based atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin who left Bangladesh after surviving a machete attack in 2013. Police have accused several of Mohiuddin’s attackers, who were released on bail, of later murdering Chakrabarti.

“I am not sure whether the government is sincere in protecting the bloggers. If that was the case, these murderers could have never got bail and continued their killing spree,” said Mohiuddin.

 

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