For Immediate Release: June 12, 2018
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
email@example.com - (207) 358-9785
Outraged and grieved by the brutal murder of atheist publisher Shahzahan Bachchu in Bangladesh, the Center for Inquiry (CFI) admonished the Bangladeshi government for allowing this campaign of terror against secularist writers and activists to continue for years. CFI, which advocates for reason, science, and secularism, operates a program to save those targeted by religious militants.
Bachchu was owner of the Bishaka Prokashoni publishing house and had planned to establish secularism centers throughout the country. According to news reports, he was dragged out of a store by a group of assailants and shot to death, before the attackers escaped on motorcycles.
“Three years after the brutal murder of Avijit Roy, militant extremists are still able to murder secularists with impunity in Bangladesh,” said Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “Instead of taking decisive action to stop these killings, Bangladesh’s leaders have engaged in victim blaming, chiding the targets of these killings for ‘hurting religious feelings.’”
CFI has been deeply engaged with the crisis in Bangladesh even before the 2015 murder of secularist writer Avijit Roy, a friend and ally of the organization, that brought the issue to world attention. Roy’s wife Bonya Ahmed, who narrowly survived the same attack, has worked closely with CFI, including taking part in our lobbying efforts with the U.S. Congress.
“While the government of Bangladesh has done little to protect these courageous freethinkers, we have stepped up,” said Blumner. “Through our Secular Rescue program, we have helped dozens of secular writers and activists relocate to safety so they can continue their work and their lives.”
Secular Rescue identifies outspoken atheist writers and activists in countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iraq living under the threat of violence, death, or criminal prosecution, and provides financial and logistical assistance to help them escape to safety. This year, The Atlantic characterized Secular Rescue as “the Underground Railroad for atheists.”
“We hear from so many people frightened for their lives because they know they have been targeted simply for questioning religion and advocating for secularism,” said Blumner. “We help as many as we can. But the Bangladeshi government must do its job, too, and stand up for basic human rights to think, speak, and live free from terror. Let Shahzahan Bachchu’s murder be the last.”
Those helped to safety by Secular Rescue include PEN Writer of Courage Award recipient Ahmedur Rashid Chowdhury (better known as “Tutul”), activist Shammi Haque, Iraqi student and activist Lubna Yaseen Banner, blogger Humi Brown (an alias), and more, many whose identities must be kept secret for their safety.