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Humanist writer murdered in Bangladesh

Shahzahan Bachchu, a well-known poet and writer on humanism and secularism, has been shot dead in his home village of Kakaldi in Bangladesh. The murder of Shahzahan is the the latest in a long string of vigilante attacks in a campaign of murder against humanists across the country in the past five years.

Shahzahan was a political activist who had published both poetry and books about free thought through the Bishakha Prakashani publishing house. He had also served as the general secretary of the Munshiganj district unit of the Communist Party.

Reports of the attack state that four men on two motorcycles shot Shahzahan dead as he sat at a tea stall in his home village before fleeing the scene. Militants and religious extremists had made numerous deaths threats to Shahzahan for a number of years. Speaking to the Daily Observer in 2015, Shahzahan said: ‘Initially I ignored the threats… But after the killings of Washikur Rahman Babu and Ananta Bijoy, I took the matter seriously. Basically my family has become afraid’.

Since 2013, there have been several brutal murders and attempted murders of humanist bloggers in both machete and gun attacks. The Bangladeshi Government has been unable to provide adequate protection to humanists, has been reluctant to bring criminal charges against perpetrators, and in some cases has given in to the demands of Islamists by prosecuting non-religious individuals for blasphemy. The situation in Bangladesh has become so grave that in 2015 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued a statement condemning the attacks.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We are devastated that the spectre of violence has returned to the freethinking community in Bangladesh. Every humanist writer and secular activist and freethinking publisher who has been killed in recent years has been a defender of the rights of others, a lover of humanity and reason and justice. Their murders stand against all these universal values. We once again call on the government of Bangladesh to root out the Jihadi networks perpetrating these crimes, and on the international community to bring pressure to bear on Bangladesh to protect and defends its humanists and human rights defenders.

‘Today as we mourn Shahzahan Bachchu, I would also like to pay tribute to others within the Bangladeshi humanist community who have suffered such violence including Asif Mohiuddin, Ahmed Rajib Haider, Sunnyur Rahamna, Shafiul Islam, Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das, Niladri Chatterjee, Faisal Arefin Dipan, Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury, and Nazimuddin Samad.’

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For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 0781 55 89 636.

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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