Bangladesh is a South Asian nation with a secular constitution, but the year 2015 has proved so far that people who question religion risk losing their lives, especially if they dare voice atheistic opinions or challenge home-grown Islamic fundamentalists.
On Oct. 31, suspected Islamists carried out a pair of machete attacks in Dhaka that left one publisher dead, as well as another publisher, a blogger and a writer seriously wounded. The twin attacks targeted publishing houses that had printed the works of slain Bangladeshi-American secular blogger Avijit Roy.
Roy was one of four secular bloggers hacked to death with machetes this year alone, and one of five killed altogether since February 2013. Saturday’s attacks, which took the life of publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan, were the first in which publishers of secular literature were victimized in such a way.
They also took place amid growing concerns about Islamists wreaking havoc to law and order in Bangladesh. The latest attacks followed the recent killings of two foreigners in separate shootings and a bombing of religious procession in Dhaka, which targeted members of the minority Shiite community. Two people died in that bombing.
The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for those attacks, as well as the killing of a policeman near Dhaka on Nov. 4, but the government has repeatedly rejected claims that IS operates in the country. Instead, the country’s home minister has pinned the blame on home-grown Islamist groups, saying that all of these attacks – including the ones targeting bloggers and publishers – are “inter-linked.”
The pictures that follow tell the story of the turmoil and public anger unleashed by the attacks on the publishers. BenarNews cautions readers that some of these images are graphic.