“The last months I did not feel safe and was continuously on alert”, says Ratan Kumar Samadder in an interview with Bergens Tidende last week. “I went to work, but did not leave my office”, he continues. Samadder is one of the 84 writers and bloggers on a death list issued by Defenders of Islam in 2014, and the first one obtaining shelter in an ICORN city.
“Many of the Bangladeshi bloggers on the death list are applying to ICORN”, says programme director Elisabeth Dyvik. “Although not all those on this appalling list will or can leave the country, it is important that all actors and organisations involved work together to respond with relevant protection alternatives”, she says. “But maybe even more important, more pressure must be put on the Bangladesh government to protect not only those on the list, but all who write and express themselves publicly in Bangladesh. They must be able to do so without risking harassment, threats or even death.”
Ratan Kumar Samadder started blogging in 2010. He was concerned with the political situation in Bangladesh and wrote on social and political issues. In his blog he criticized the government, and called for justice for attacks on religious minorities. He has also written in support of women’s and LGBTQI rights. Being an atheist, Samadder was blogging with an alias, but after increasing popularity also on facebook, his identity was known to the public in 2013. After the murder of his friend and fellow blogger Ananta Bijoy Das in May this year, Samadder feared for his life an contacted ICORN. “It was Ananta who told me about ICORN”, he says. Ananta had applied to ICORN, and was on the waiting list for a residency when he got killed.
The last attack on a blogger in Bangladesh happened just weeks after Ratan Samadder arrived in Bergen. Niloy Chakrabarti was attacked at his home in Gorhan, Dhaka, by five as yet unknown assailants wielding machetes, on 7 August 2015. Owing to his blogging and involvement with the Ganajagaran Mancha movement, Chakrabarti’s name appeared alongside those of 83 other secular bloggers described as anti-Islamic and blasphemous.
In this year alone, four blogger who appeared on this list have been killed. On 26 February 2015, distinguished blogger Avijit Roy was brutally murdered, while his wife was injured in the attack. Only one month later, the murder of blogger Washiqur Rahman followed. Ananta Bijoy Das was stabbed to death in the city of Sylhet by a masked gang on 12 May 2015. In the wake of these killings more than 150 writers from across the globe spoke out, calling on Bangladeshi Prime Minister Hasina Wajed and her government to do all in their power to ensure that the tragic events were not repeated and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
ICORN has received applications for residencies from 13 Bangladeshi bloggers. Together with other organisations working on assistance and re-location we monitor the situation for over 30 bloggers at risk.