Thursday, April 28, 2016

Muslims and gays: Murders force Bangladeshi gay rights activists underground

Xulhaz Mannan was a rallying figure for Bangladesh's marginalized but increasingly outspoken lesbian, gay and transgender community, but his brutal murder has dealt a huge blow to the movement and forced some of its leaders underground. Mannan, who founded Bangladesh's first magazine for gays and lesbians which he used to launch a vibrant rights movement in the deeply religious, Muslim-majority country, was hacked to death along with a fellow activist. Friends and fellow campaigners this week rushed to remove all trace of their activism from social media sites, fearing they could themselves become targets. A group of unidentified attackers carrying machetes and guns murdered Mannan and Mahbub Tonoy after gaining access to his Dhaka apartment. It was the latest in a series of killings of secular bloggers and liberal activists in Bangladesh that have caused global outrage, and sparked fears that the attackers are expanding their range of targets to include openly gay people. Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) has said that it killed the men, accusing them of working to "promote homosexuality" in Bangladesh. The government, however, says that homegrown Islamists were responsible. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has blamed the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist ally, Jamaat-e-Islami.

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