Image: Asif Mohiuddin. Source: The Daily Star
Atheist Alliance International (AAI) urges global governments to petition the government of Bangladesh to immediately release bloggers who have been arrested for allegedly "hurting religious sentiments” and, further, to demand that the state take resolute steps to protect atheists and religious minorities from real and pressing threats of violence. On 2 April, police arrested Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob and Rasel Parvez. The following day, authorities detained blogger Asif Mohiuddin, a writer who was attacked on 13 January by militant Islamists. The attack on Asif was followed a month later by the violent murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider.
“That a government will arrest people for exercising free speech and expression when those people are themselves under threat from religiously-inspired criminals is a tremendous injustice and an outrage to humanity,” said AAI President Carlos A. Diaz. "This is contrary to basic human rights and Bangladesh's own constitution." The arrests of the bloggers, three of whom were paraded in handcuffs at a press conference on 2 April, came after pressure from Islamists, who have organised a march to the capital on the weekend of 6/7 April to demand the death penalty for atheist bloggers. “That the government has caved-in to a violent sectarian movement, by arrests and shutting of websites, does not bode well for the country’s future,” Diaz said. “The state should act to ensure a vibrant civil society by protecting free expression, especially the expression of minority viewpoints.”
AAI calls on the international community, concerned individuals and organisations to take a firm stand in supporting freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. Religious tolerance and pluralism are strongest when freedom of expression, including freedom to challenge religious viewpoints, is protected for all peoples.
Please contact the Bangladesh Embassy in your country to express your outrage at this situation and call for the bloggers to be freed and their personal safety protected. You can contact the Bangladesh embassy in the US here. AAI's letter to the US embassy is below:
Dear Ambassador Qader
I am writing to express my serious concern at the arrest of four atheist bloggers in Bangladesh - Subrata Adhikari Shuvo, Mashiur Rahman Biplob, Rasel Parvez and Asif Mohiuddin. As I expect you are aware, these arrests follow the murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in February.
Bangladesh has a responsibility to protect the freedom and safety of its citizens. These men have been arrested for nothing more than expressing their lack of religious belief. Whether you agree with their views or not, they are citizens of your country and human beings. The deserve the basic human rights of self expression and personal safety, no matter who agrees or disagrees with them. I urge you to act to free these men immediately and work to ensure that Bangladesh is a country where people can be free to be religious or not as they choose, without fear for their personal safety.
AAI has released a media statement on this issue, which you may read at its website, atheistalliance.org.
Carlos A. Diaz
Atheist Alliance International
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About Atheist Alliance International
Atheist Alliance International (AAI) is a global alliance of atheist/freethought groups and individuals, committed to educating its members and the public about atheism, secularism and related issues.
Atheist Alliance International's vision is a secular world where public policy, scientific inquiry and education are not influenced by religious beliefs, but based upon sound reasoning, rationality and evidence. Atheist Alliance International's mission is to challenge and confront religious faith, to strengthen global atheism by promoting the growth and interaction of atheist/freethought organisations around the world and to undertake international educational and advocacy projects.
Carlos A. Diaz
President, Atheist Alliance International
t: +54 9 11 5061 4091
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