The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) has started up a fund to defend humanists under threat.
Over the last 5 years, the IHEU has led the way in providing advocacy and support for humanists at risk around the world.
The IHEU is at the forefront of identifying and raising awareness of a disturbing new trend:
— growing violence and discrimination targeted at non-religious individuals and groups around the world.
We want to continue highlighting and campaigning on this topic and defending individual humanists at risk. And we need your help.
Here are just some of the ways your gift may help:
• £20 would cover the cost of producing a letter of support for someone whom IHEU has verified is at risk and who is claiming asylum
• £100 could fund direct personal advisory support between IHEU officers and individuals at risk
• £400 could support a high-level meeting between IHEU and representatives at international institutions such as the United Nations
• £700 could fund one of our Member Organizations from a hostile country to be represented as part of our delegation at the UN Human Rights Council
• £2,000 could support someone whom IHEU has verified as at risk to their life to get to safety
In countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and the Maldives, humanist bloggers and activists have been repeatedly targeted by Islamist militants, and even murdered for their work. These are humanists, championing human rights, equality, and bravely daring to confront fundamentalism, even when surrounded by hostile groups.
And in thirteen countries around the world, the non-religious can be put to death under laws against ‘apostasy’ and ‘blasphemy’. In Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Mauritania this is a very real threat, with multiple people currently accused of ‘apostasy’ and facing possible death sentences.
We need your support to help humanists at risk.
We work on this issue in three main ways:
• Through the publication of our annual Freedom of Thought Report, the IHEU provides a detailed overview of areas where the law, policy and practice of states discriminates against the non-religious. The report advances human rights by 1) leveraging criticism against countries where the human rights of the non-religious are infringed, 2) highlighting individual case studies of violence and discrimination, and 3) opening up a new discussion at the international level around the targeted persecution of non-religious people specifically. With an innovative rating system, a new fully online edition, and the data openly published under a Creative Commons license, the IHEU publication sets a class-leading standard for civil society reports on novel human rights topics.
(Map showing aggregated data from the Freedom of Thought Report on the level of legal discrimination and persecution against the non-reilgious around the world. More info.)
• In our advocacy and campaigns work we champion human rights. At the United Nations we highlight persecution of the non-religious and raise individual cases at the highest level. For example, last week we gave voice to Ensaf Haidar, whose husband Raif Badawi has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for five years, for advocating liberalism and secluarism. In her statement, delivered by IHEU’s representative, Ensaf said: “The peaceful expression of opinion and thought is a non-negotiable human right. It is the right of all human beings with no exception. I call on the very Council charged with the protection and promotion of human rights to do more to pressure its member Saudi Arabia to release my husband and all others like him, jailed and mistreated for standing up for the human rights of all.” The IHEU also provides coordination for the End Blasphemy Laws campaign, an international coalition of organisations which seeks to highlight the discriminatory nature of blasphemy laws, in-line with the policy of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.
(The IHEU co-founded the International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws which runs the End Blasphemy Laws campaign.)
• On top of all this research, advocacy and campaigning, the IHEU has taken up casework and championed persecuted individuals, advising and supporting people who are living under threat, or seeking asylum or humanitarian assistance. The IHEU has helped numerous individuals to relocate or otherwise find greater security after being targeted for expressing their humanist values or secularist criticisms.
(The threat is a horrible reality! Yameen Rasheed was killed in April by suspected Islamist militants. IHEU had met him in Geneva earlier this year, where he was championing human rights. After his brutal murder, he was described in the media by a friend as a “humanist”, and “a very bright mind”.)
The IHEU has been recognised as a global leader in highlighting the persecution of Humanists, atheists and secularists under the human rights framework. This year the work of IHEU was recognised by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief as the only civil society contribution in their first report to the Human Rights Council. The work of IHEU has transformed the way that human rights for non-religious people are seen, drawing world-wide attention to the targeted violence and systematic discrimination faced in many countries.
Now is the time to support us.
Please give today and help us to defend humanists at risk around the world.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization incorporated in New York, USA. And registered in England, number FC020642.
As an alternative to GoFundMe you can give via iheu.org/donate.
Or by bank transfer to:
Account name: “International Humanist and Ethical Union”
Sort code: 20-41-41
Account number: 50958840
SWIFT code: BARCGB22
IBAN number: GB59BARC20414150958840.
Please use “WHD2017” as the payment reference.
Or you can send a cheque / check payable to “International Humanist and Ethical Union” to our office address:
International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
39 Moreland Street
London EC1V 8BB
We will acknowledge all donations and we can provide a receipt on request.
Washiqur Rahman’s Facebook banner declares “#IamAvijit”, after the leading secular and humanist blogger, Avijit Roy, who was murdered a month ago in Bangladesh.
This morning Washiqur Rahman himself was killed in similar circumstances: a machete attack by assailants on the streets of Dhaka. The brutal attack took place close to Rahman’s home. Police have reportedly taken two men into custody who were detained at the scene.
Bob Churchill, Director of Communications at the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) comments: “We are deeply saddened that yet another rationalist voice has been so brutally silenced in this vile backlash against atheist bloggers. Our thoughts are with Washiqur’s family and we stand in solidarity with the many individual thinkers and writers from Bangladesh who exercise their right to discuss religion — Islam in particular — frankly and critically. This is a human right, freedom of expression, and it should be respected and protected in Bangladesh, as it should be respected and protected everywhere.”
Asif Mohiuddin, who was also the victim of a machete attack in 2013, but survived and now lives abroad, described Washiqur on his Facebook page as a “humanist” and a true wit. He told the IHEU: “He was a good friend. We spent hours over tea discussing blogs a few years ago. He had a great sense of humor, his satires were amazing. I named him the George Carlin of Bangladesh! Personally he was very polite, a nice human being. He wanted with all his heart, a true secular country, where everyone can practice their freedom.”
Arifur Rahman, another fellow Bangladeshi atheist blogger, saw Washiqur recently at a social meetup. Washiqur was “a soft spoken personality,” says Arifur, and “his writing was very good. He was… careful, but that did not save him… The culture of impunity that has spread over the last few years clearly has very damning results. It is now the consensus inside Bangladesh, be it silent or spoken, that ‘if you drop an atheist in the open street, nothing will happen to you, you will be treated as a hero.’ The word ‘Nastik’ (atheist) has been vilified in Bangladesh (and the rest of the Muslim world); they are seen as sub-human, it is OK to kill them.”
Washiqur also used the hashtag #WordsCannotBeKilled, introduced by Avijit Roy’s daughter following her father’s murder. In that vital spirit, we share some words from Washiqur Rahman.
Mild-mannered in person, Washiqur’s satire could be bitingly incisive and insightful. Writing a 52 episode series for Dhormockery.com (a satirical Bengali site), called “Jaw-crushing answers to insulting comments of atheists” (see: questions 1-20, questions 21-40) he enumerated questions raised by critics about Islam, alongside answers commonly given to them, but paired the questions together in order to highlight how the answers are very often in tension, or contradict each other entirely. For example:
Insulting comment 21: Islam is claimed to be ‘the best and the complete way of life’. Does that mean that slavery is valid for eternity?
Jaw-crushing answer: See, Islam is a humane religion. Slavery was not forbidden because of the situation of that time. But there scope for ‘qiyas and ijma’ (consensus and reconsideration) in Islam. That means any custom can be abolished
Insulting comment 22: Why then Muslims are not agreeing to equal inheritance for girls through ‘qiyas and ijma’.
Jaw-crushing answer: See, Islam is a ‘perfect and complete way of life’. Its ‘codes of life’ has been formulated for the overall welfare of humanity. Islam has basically given women the highest honor. But you want to abolish the laws of Allah for the sake of inconsequential earthly benefits. This is not acceptable.
For Bangaldesh’s Independence Day, he wrote a poetic lament about which sections of society really are liberated, and those which are not. The piece reveals many wider social justice concerns, alluding to the apparent immunity from prosecution faced by some garment factory owners, and the injustices faced by many of the poorest in society:
আজ বাংলাদেশের স্বাধীনতা দিবস।
মোল্লা স্বাধীন, জঙ্গি স্বাধীন, ছাগু স্বাধীন, মুমিন স্বাধীন, দুর্নীতিবাজ স্বাধীন, রাজনৈতিক নেতা স্বাধীন, পাতি নেতা স্বাধীন, ধর্ষক স্বাধীন, সামরিক বাহিনী স্বাধীন, সুশীল সমাজ স্বাধীন, পিনাকী স্বাধীন, শফি হুজুর স্বাধীন, দলদাস স্বাধীন, গার্মেন্টস মালিক স্বাধীন, লঞ্চ মালিক স্বাধীন…
স্বাধীন নয় কৃষক-শ্রমিক,
স্বাধীন নয় কথিত সংখ্যালঘু-আদিবাসী,
স্বাধীন নয় মুক্তচিন্তার মানুষ,
স্বাধীন নয় মানুষ হতে চাওয়া মানুষগুলো…
Today is Bangladesh’s liberation day
The Mullah has freedom, extremists have freedom, Muslims have freedom, the corrupt have freedom, political leaders have freedom, adulates of the political leaders have freedom, rapists are free, the armed forces are free, so-called civil society is free, intellectuals who support Islamists, they also have freedom, religious leaders have freedom, the garment factory owners have freedom, the ferry owners have freedom.
Not free: the farmers and labours
Not free: indigenous people and minorities
Not free: Freethinkers
Not free: All the people who just want to be human…
“Abhijit Roy lives in America and so it is not possible to kill him right now. He will be murdered when he comes back.”
A reminder that much of the world is a dangerous place for freethinkers and those who have no religious faith.
From the International Humanist and Ethical Union:
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is sickened and appalled to hear that secular blogger Avijit Roy has been murdered in Bangladesh a few hours ago.
“Abhijit Roy lives in America and so, it is not possible to kill him right now. He will be murdered when he comes back.”
These were the words of an Islamist activist referring to Avijit (or Abhijit) Roy early last year. The man making the threat, who is well-known to the authorities, has repeatedly and openly talked about wanting to see secular and freethought writers dead, and those under threat have complained that authorities have ignored his threats and incitement, despite his credible links to Islamist extremists and similar murders taking place.
Tonight, IHEU joins with freethinkers and humanists from Bangladesh in calling for an end to this fatal appeasement of death threats by the authorities in Bangladesh.
Avijit Roy was a well-known writer, founder of the freethought blogging platform Mukto-Mona, which he described to IHEU as “an Internet congregation of freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists, and humanists of mainly Bengali and South Asian descent”. He had previously provided IHEU with analysis around the arrest and threats against “atheist bloggers” in Bangaldesh in 2013.
Last year Avijit Roy reported these threats to his life, in connection with his published writing from a secular and freethinking perspective. Below, we publish extracts from emails Roy exchanged with IHEU.
IHEU understands that Avijit Roy returned to Bangladesh from the United States around one week ago, to celebrate publishing his new science book (in Bengali), From Vacuum to Universe.
The Dhaka Tribune reports tonight that Roy and his wife Rafida Ahmed Bonna were attacked with cleavers or machetes as they left the book fair at Dhaka University shortly around 8:45pm Thursday night. Bonna is alive but in a serious condition. Roy’s murder has already been compared to the attempted assassination and later death of Humayun Azad, who was also attacked after leaving the Dhaka international book fair, as well as the murder by machete Ahmed Rajib Haider in February 2013.
IHEU’s Director of Communications, Bob Churchill, says:
“This loss is keenly felt by freethinkers and humanists in South Asia and around the world. He was a colleague in humanism and a friend to all who respect human rights, freedom, and the light of reason. Our thoughts are with his family, and his many friends, supporters, and admirers who will be deeply hurt by this senseless crime.
“We cannot know the assailants who carried out tonight’s vicious murder. But we do know this: Those who have openly made the most serious and credible threats on Roy’s life have been allowed to do so with impunity and now he is dead. As Roy himself warned, Bangladesh is appeasing the most insidious and violent strains of Islamism, and he new his own life was under threat. That appeasement of theocratic demands and naked threats must end, now.”
Another Bangladeshi freethought blogger, Arifur Rahman, who was present at the book fair tonight, told IHEU:
“I attended the simple ceremony in the Annual Book Fair just an hour ago and discussed a few things. He excused himself to go wander around in the book fair…
“In Bangladesh, we have seen Government satisfying Islamists’ demands, not protecting bloggers, writers at all. Everyone almost accepted the fact that this will happen and will continue to happen. Government and state is not here to protect or give any help.
After the incident everyone is advising me leave country immediately. I am not interested in leaving right now. No point in living if I have to be afraid all the time.”
Bangladeshi writer and activist, Asif Mohiuddin, who spoke in a plenary session at last year’s World Humanist Congress about the threats by Islamists against himself and others for for their humanist writings and secular activism, said of Avijit Roy tonight:
“He was like my brother. This a great loss for the nation, and for all freethinkers in the world. We called him Richard Dawkins of Bangladesh. He was the nicest person I ever met. Just yesterday he wished me well on my birthday, today he is dead. I can’t believe this! He was my dearest friend and we worked together for 6 years against religious fundamentalism.
He was my hero, and hero of many young freethinkers in Bangladesh. Many young people were inspired by him so much. Now we have a big atheist and agnostic community, gay and lesbian community, that was possible only because of him. He was our support in every step. Whenever we had any problem, he solved that very quickly.
I am very much upset. Please do something, create some pressure on Bangladesh government by writing. Many freethinkers are in risk, they will die.”
Extracts from emails by Avijit Roy about threats by Farabi Shafiur Rahman
Avijit Roy emailed with IHEU on a number of occasions. He was most concerned about explicit and credible threats by one Farabi Shafiur Rahman. Roy felt that he was relatively safe while residing in the United States, but worried for loved ones in Bangladesh. (IHEU was not aware of his plans to return to Dhaka this month.)
We publish below some extracts from Roy’s messages in which he expresses concern about the threats from Farabi Shafiur Rahman, whose authority he clearly felt might hold some sway with people who might be prepared to actually kill him. The following text is from emails exchanged from 21 March 2014 onwards; the first email was almost certainly sent to multiple organisations and media. (The square brackets are his own, except where otherwise stated with emphasis in italics.)
“[21 March 2014] I am often involved in causes that rally support for free speech movements in Bangladesh through my writing and activism. Recently, I found that I have been targeted by a group of militant Islamists and terrorists. Farabi Shafiur Rahman, an extremist who is allegedly linked to the radical Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami and Hizbut Tahrir [a terrorist organization that operates in 40 countries (including Bangladesh) around the world] has given me a death threat through a facebook status. It is worth noting that he is the same Farabi who threatened to kill a Muslim cleric officiated at Ahmed Rajib Haider’s (a popular blogger known by the psuedonym Thaba Baba, who was hacked to death last year by machete-wielding Islamic militants) funeral last year during Shahbagh Movement. Police at that time arrested Farabi on charges of “instigating the murder” but he was granted bail. Although he has continued to threaten many progressives in Bangladesh, no official action has been taken against him.
Most recently, Farabi wrote a death threat on Facebook to Rokomari.com (Bangladesh’s first online bookstore) and ordered the site to stop selling of my books. In his Facebook post, Farabi specified the office address of Rokomari.com and called upon his “Islamist friends” in the adjacent locality to attack. He also told Mahmudul Hasan Sohagh, the owner of Rokomari.com, that he would suffer the same fate as Ahmed Rajib Haider. As a result, Rokomari has ‘taken my books off its list’. The news created a huge uproar and the issue came to the attention of national media and beyond.