Article Title:The Bangladesh Tragedy
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:30th April 2016 - 01:09 pm
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Story ID:18220
Text:On April 25, 2016, the editor of Bangladesh's LGBTI Roopban magazine was murdered by assailants subsequently revealed to have been from the Bangladeshi affiliate of al-Qaeda. What is the backstory behind this tragedy?   Roopban editor Xulhaz Mannan and a close friend were slaughtered by half a dozen men posing as couriers who hacked them to death with machetes. Founded in 1971 after the former "East Pakistan" seceded from its western Muslim counterpart, Bangladesh has a troubled history. Most of the population are Bengali and Muslim, albeit with a significant Hindu minority. Ostensibly a secular democratic republic, Bangladesh has successively been wracked by a post-independence famine (1974), several military coups (1975, 1981, 2007), and the Chittagong Hills insurgency (1977) as well as assassinations of prior leaders (1981). Parliamentary democracy was then restored (1991), and has alternated between political parties led by two women- Khaleda Zia and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, against Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League. Sheikh Hasina ended the long Chittagong Hills insurgency after nearly two decades by signing a peace treaty (1996). The Bangladeshi Nationalist Party and Awami League have clashed repeatedly, each accusing one another of political corruption, repression and insurrection. In 2007, there was another military coup. This was only temporary and the Awami League won re-election in 2008, despite a boycott from the BNP. The situation remains tense. Formally, Bangladesh is a parliamentary democratic republic, but a highly unstable one. According to Bangladesh's Human Rights Commission, the state's police are the overwhelming subject of most complaints. Targets of successive governments have been Nobel Prize winner Mohammed Yunus, the Grameen bank, BNP bloggers and allied media. Moreover, the Bangladeshi military are also viewed as a law unto themselves as one might guess from a nation with a chequered history of intervals of military dictatorship and intervention. They are believed responsible for 'disappearances,' extra-judicial death squads, arbitrary detention and torture. As for al-Qaeda, their regional affiliates are concentrated within Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, conducting a multilateral war against India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma. It was officially founded in 2014, although much of their activity to date has been against Pakistani military officials, civil servants and politicians. However, one exception was in May 2015, when several Bangladeshi secularist, atheist, humanist and anti-censorship bloggers were slaughtered by AQIS- Avijit Roy, Oyasiqur Rahman Bubu, Ahmed Raijib Haider and AKM Shafiul Islam. There have been several other such murders, but these were carried out by ISIS/Daesh affiliates in the same country, or unaffiliated Islamist mujahedin groups. Like India and Pakistan, as a former British South Asian colonial state, Bangladesh has its own anti-gay Section 377 within its Criminal Code, which refers to "unnatural offences" and goes on to state that who has such sexual relationships with men, women or animals will face criminal prosecution and ten years to life imprisonment as well as the imposition of fines. Even straight oral sex and anal sex may be caught under this broadly worded condemnation. In 2013, the Dhaka Tribune condemned the continued survival of Section 377, condemning it as an anachronism and calling for its repeal. As for LGBT community activism, it started online in 1999, with the formation of Gay Bangladesh, followed by Teen Gay Bangladesh (2002) and Boys of Bangladesh, an enduring network. It is committed to HIV/AIDS prevention and decriminalisation through Section 377 repeal. The Bangladeshi secularist Mukto-Mona online network has assisted the cause. In 2010, the late Dr Avajit Roy, also killed by AQIS, published the first Bengali language book on the subject of LGBTI rights,Homosexuality: A Scientific and Socio-Psychological Investigation.Finally, in January 2014, publication of LGBT magazine Roopbaan began. The title refers to a popular Bengali folk character. In 2013, two lesbian couples were arrested for marrying one another, but the current Bangladeshi government also introduced anti-discrimination laws for transgender/intersexed/eunuch hijras. However, quite apart from atheists and LGBTI groups, women don't have significant human rights either. At one time, if abandoned by male partners, women could be left destitute and homeless. As for HIV/AIDS, sex workers and men who have sex with men are not educated about it. The latest atrocity is unlikely to do anything concrete about these continuing tragic and woeful incidents.     Craig Young - 30th April 2016
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