The gay rights activists hacked to death in Bangladesh this week never sought police protection despite numerous death threats because they feared police backlash as much as a terrorist assault, friends claim.
Five men attacked Xulhaz Mannan, a U.S. embassy employee and editor of the country’s only LGBT magazine, Roopbaan, and his coworker Mahbub Tonoy with machetes, hacking them to death earlier this week.
“Xulhaz told me was receiving telephone threats and other gay people were also receiving them,” an anonymous activist told The Telegraph. “He also told me that there was a Facebook page called Voice of Bangladesh where there were these threats from Islamists, quite direct threats, against activists. At one point Xulhaz made a joke that one of these days you will find me with my throat cut.”
Identifying as LGBT is illegal in Bangladesh.
Al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar Al Islam claimed responsibility for the murders. The group has also taken credit for the murder of at least three secular writers in the past year.
The anonymous activist also told The Telegraph she met Mannan after the police “banned a ‘Rainbow rally’ by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) campaigners as part of celebrations of the Bengali new year on 14 April.” Roopbaan organized the rally, but canceled it after the crackdown. The police took in four activists, but released them after they told their parents of their sexual orientation.
“As a result of the detentions, Xulhaz and others were reluctant to go to the police and inform them of the threat to them,” continued the source. “They were concerned about the harassment they might face.”
BBC Bengali Service editor said the staff at the magazine took extra precautions “to protect their identities but had not believed their lives were at risk.”
This news broke just a day after authorities apprehended a student in connection with the hacking death of an English professor.
“We haven’t arrested him or brought any charges against him yet,” explained Rajshahi police commissioner Mohammad Shamsuddin. “He is a suspect, and we’ve taken him to our custody for interrogation.”
English Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, worked at Rajshahi University. He was attacked from behind and stabbed in the neck as he waited for a bus.
Earlier this month, men attacked and hacked to death liberal blogger Nazimuddin Samad with machetes after he left his law classes at Jagannath University. Samad often criticized religion on his Facebook page.
Extremists attacked the following bloggers in the past year:
August 6 – Niloy Chatterjee, blogger, hacked to death at his home in Dhaka.
May 12 – Ananta Bijoy Das, blogger for Mukto-Mona website, killed while on his way to work in the city of Sylhet.
March 30 – Washiqur Rahman Babu, blogger, hacked to death by three men in Dhaka.
February 26 – Avijit Roy, a prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger, killed while walking with his wife outside Dhaka University.
They also attacked and killed two men who “published the works of atheist writers” in October.