“People think the only problem is that we’re being killed – that ‘extremists’ are murdering activists. But no one talks about the government arresting us, making new laws to silence us, and refusing to protect us when we tell them about the death threats.” – LGBTI rights defender, Dhaka
Since 2013, at least 14 HRDs have been murdered in Bangladesh. Multiple HRDs who have been physically attacked and the families of those who have been killed reported that in the six months prior to the attack police denied a request for protection. Police routinely tell HRDs to “just leave the country” when they report death threats. Four months before he was hacked to death in his home, police told HRD Niloy Neel “we can’t help you, you’re a blogger.”
Instead of properly investigating the killings of HRDs, the government has released statements criticising the activists’ writings rather than the attackers’ crimes. In lieu of proper protection, surviving activists working in at least 10 different rights areas – including gender equality, LGBT issues, and indigenous peoples’ rights – have been forced to reduce their work and cut ties with colleagues.
Front Line Defenders found that at least 40 LGBTI activists have gone into hiding or stoppedcommunicating with colleagues in an attempt to survive. Forced to change phone numbers, apartments, and social media profiles, HRDs report a severe breakdown in activist networks as a result of the government’s inaction.
As a result of killings, impunity, and the authorities’ refusal to protect HRDs who report death threats, more than 45 of the most prominent Bangladeshi human rights defenders and writers are now dead, in exile, or have ceased writing completely.
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