The collapse of a textiles building in Dhaka killing hundreds of workers in poor working conditions has been reported globally, and drew an estimated 20,000 protesters to the main rally in Dhaka today. This cause is serious and the hurt keenly felt and reflected around the world. The national day of mourning declared last Thursday prompted a number of protests in support of persecuted atheist bloggers to be postponed until tomorrow.
And yet the figure of 20,000 protesting in connection with the building collapse, is at least five times lower than the“hundreds of thousands” who marched earlier in April demanding a blasphemy law with a sentence of capital punishment aimed at atheist bloggers and secular activists.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) warned previously that demands such as a new blasphemy law and the arrest of atheist bloggers for “hurting religious sentiments” should be given no leeway, lest the demands inflate. However, authorities arrested at least four bloggers in April and the government initially said they would consider the 13-point charter of Islamist demands, then changed their minds.
As a result the Islamist parties have indeed expanded their demands. The umbrella platform of Islamic organisations have demanded that a 13-point demand “charter” be met by May 5th under threat of “sieging” the capital city, Dhaka.
The platform’s secretary, Junayed Babu nagari, said, “Our demands are clear. We cannot go home without success. Capital punishment for atheist bloggers is no longer our main demand. Instead we call for re-establishment of full faith and believe on [sic] Almighty Allah in the constitution.”
The 13-point charter demands that the secular government’s women and education policy be cancelled, that Qawmi Madrassa certification be officially recognised, and for a blasphemy law with a sentence of capital punishment to be implemented.
Hefazat leader Mowlana Jafrullah Khan said, “We are not sure those arrested were really anti-Islamic bloggers. We want to see the government arresting all of the bloggers who write or post against Islam.” (IHEU has received confirmation that the arrested bloggers are all atheists.)
President of IHEU Sonja Eggerickx responds, “We encourage the government of Bangladesh to avoid any further appeasement or flip-flopping, and support them in resisting these unjust and theocratic demands. They must stand on principle and deny all demands which would erode the secular constitution of Bangladesh and which would destroy the established human rights of both religious and non-religious minorities.
“Government must reject outright these demands to punish, let alone execute, atheists merely for expressing their views on religion as atheists. The right to leave, change or criticise religion is enshrined as freedom of religion or belief in international law and that right must be upheld.”
Confirmed May 2nd Protests in Support of Atheist Bloggers
Washington, DC: Embassy of Bangladesh, 3510 International Drive NW, Washington, D.C. 20008. 4:30 pm ET. Details.
Ottawa: High Commission for Bangladesh, Constitution Square Centre, 340 Albert St, Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7Y6. 4:30 pm ET. Details.
Calgary: Consulate of Bangladesh, 633 6th Avenue South West, T2P 2Y6. 4:30 pm MT. Details.
Toronto: Eaton Centre, 214-2 College St., Toronto, Ontario M5G 1K3. 12 pm ET. Details.
London: The British Humanist Association is holding a leafleting protest throughout the day outside or near the Bangladesh High Commission in London. Volunteers are asked to email email@example.com. 28 Queen’s Gate London SW7 5JA
Dhaka: Press Club, 4:30pm in UTC+07. (Independently organized)
UPDATE 26th April: Yesterday on 25th April some protests were held outside Embassies of Bangladesh to support atheist bloggers of Bangladesh. While CFI,BHA postponed their protests until 2nd May because of the disaster in Bangladesh, American Atheists and Secular Coalition For America decided to continue with protests. President of American Atheists David Silverman said,”My decision to continue … is based on the fact that I feel this is an urgent problem. People are in jail for doing nothing but self expression, and that is wholly immoral. This protest is weeks in the making, international in scope, and we aren’t canceling it because of an impromptu day of mourning imposed by the very people imprisoning atheists like us.”
More protests will be held next week on 2nd May.
KBIA covered the Columbia,MO protest. Here is their story.
Below are some pictures from the protests held on 25th April.
UPDATE: In light of the tragic events in Bangladesh protests in Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto that were organized by CFI Canada have been postponed. CFI also won’t be protesting in NYC,DC,Columbia MO. New date announced by CFI is 2nd May. Here is CFI‘s update. Although other atheist groups are going ahead with the protests in NYC, DC, London, Columbia MO, & Dhaka Bangladesh.
— David Silverman (@MrAtheistPants) April 25, 2013
— Simon (@SimonKnowz) April 25, 2013
American Atheists and Secular Coalition for America will be protesting today on 25th April. To clear any confusion,here’s the latest information.
25th April 20013 UPDATE: Because of the unfortunate events in Bangladesh today which has left many people dead, British Humanist Association has cancelled it’s UK protest today. Here is the message by BHA. Rest of the protests are in place for now.
UPDATE: Many protests are being announced all over the world for 25th April 2013. You can get Up-to-date information on protest events at http://bit.ly/defenddissent
To coordinate an event, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Protest events so far confirmed for the following cities on April 25, 2013:
- Washington, DC: Embassy of Bangladesh, 3510 International Drive NW, Washington, D.C. 20008. 4:30 pm ET. Details here.
- New York City: Office of the Consulate General of Bangladesh, 211 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017. 4:30 pm ET
Will begin at Grand Central Station, move to the consulate, and then the United Nations building. Details here.
- Columbia, MO: Peace Park, Columbia, MO. 12 pm CT. Hosted by MU SASHA (Skeptics, Atheist, Secular Humanist, and Agnostics). Details here.
- Ottawa: High Commission for Bangladesh, Constitution Square Centre, 340 Albert St, Ottawa, Ontario K1R 7Y6. 4:30 pm ET. Details here.
- Calgary: Consulate of Bangladesh, 633 6th Avenue South West, T2P 2Y6. 4:30 pm MT. Details here.
- Toronto: Eaton Centre, 214-2 College St., Toronto, Ontario M5G 1K3. 12 pm ET.Details here.
**Protests in Ottawa,Calgary,Toronto have been postponed. The new date for protests is 2nd May,as announced by CFI Canada.
London:The British Humanist Association is holding a leafleting protest throughout the day outside or near the Bangladesh High Commission in London. Volunteers are asked to email email@example.com.
28 Queen’s Gate London SW7 5JA
[UPDATE: Because of the unfortunate events in Bangladesh today which has left many people dead, British Humanist Association has cancelled it’s UK protest today. Here is the message by BHA. Rest of the protests are in place.)
- Dhaka: Press Club, 4:30pm in UTC+07. (Independently organized)
More cities and events to be announced. Keep checking CFI’s protest page.
Twitter hashtag #DefendDissent
(Here’s the article from Slate on the witch-hunt of atheist bloggers of Bangladesh)
Brad Adams,executive director of Human Rights Watch Asia Division said, “By targeting peaceful critics in the media and blogosphere and promising more arrests, the government is abandoning any serious claim that it is committed to free speech. Bangladeshis should have the right to peacefully express their views, and the state should address these demands through the rule of law instead of embarking on politically motivated arrests.”
Finally official calls have been given by numerous humanist and atheist organizations worldwide to support the Bangladeshi atheist bloggers and activists and 25th April will be the international day to defend the atheist bloggers of Bangladesh. People all over the world are supporting the cause of the Bangladeshi bloggers.
In January, 29 year old blogger Asif Mohiuddin was stabbed. In February, 35 year old atheist blogger involved in the Shahbag protests, Ahmed Rajib, was brutally killed. Islamists continue to threaten prominent bloggers and have called for the “execution of 84 atheist bloggers for insulting religion”.
Rather than defend freedom of expression and protect freethinkers, the Bangladeshi government has arrested several bloggers, promised to pursue others, and shut down websites and blogs.
We, the undersigned, call for 25 April to be an international day to defend Bangladesh’s bloggers and activists. On this day, we urge groups and individuals to rally at Bangladeshi embassies, contact members of parliament in their countries of residence, highlight the situation, write protest letters, carry out acts of solidarity, Tweet #Bangladesh #Bloggers, and sign this petition.
We unequivocally condemn the attacks on and threats against atheist, secularist and freethinking bloggers and call on the Bangladeshi government to guarantee their safety, respect free expression and prosecute Islamists who threaten, attack and harm critics.
Freedom of expression, including to criticise Islam and Islamism as well as to blaspheme, is a basic right.
Similarly British Humanist Association,American Humanist Association,International Humanist and Ethical Union,Atheist Alliance International have issued calls to support the Bangladeshi bloggers. Center For Inquiry has appealed everyone to join in to support atheist bloggers of Bangladesh and Urging the State Department to Pressure Bangladesh over Arrests of Atheist Bloggers.
The following people and organizations have endorsed the call for International Day To Defend Atheist Bloggers Of Bangladesh:
Aisha Gill, Academic
Amanda Brown, Founder, We are Atheism
Amanda Sebestyen, Writer
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association
Anissa Helie, Algerian/French Activist
Anna Bergström, Board Member, Swedish Humanist Association
Annie Sugier, President, Ligue du Droit International des Femmes
Arifur Rahman, Bangladeshi Blogger
Avijit Roy, Bangladeshi Blogger
B B Chaudhuri, Chairperson, International Forum for Secular Bangladesh
Bill Ligertwood, Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought
Boris van der Ham, Chairman, Humanistisch Verbond (Dutch Humanist Association)
Carlos A. Diaz, President, Atheist Alliance International
Caroline Fourest, Writer and Journalist
Cezar Maroti, Romanian Humanist Association will sign the letter.
Charlie Klendjian, Secretary, Lawyers’ Secular Society
Christopher Roche, Bath Atheists, Humanists and Secularists
Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-Presidents, Freedom From Religion Foundation
David Nicholls, President, Atheist Foundation of Australia
David Silverman, President, American Atheists
Derek Lennard, Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association
Djemila Benhabib, Journalist and Writer
DPR Jones, The Magic Sandwich Show
Dya Ahmad, Member of Youth Parliament in Iraq and Secretary of Student and Youth organisation in Iraq
Emily Dietle, Blogger
Eric Jayne, President, Minnesota Atheists
Esam Shoukry, Head, Organization for Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq
Fabian van Langevelde, Board Member, Atheïstisch Verbond (Dutch Atheist Alliance)
Faisal Saeed Al-Mutar, Iraqi Writer and Human Rights activist, Founder of Global Secular Humanist Movement
Fariborz Pooya, Iranian Secular Society
Farzana Hassan, Writer
Fiammetta Venner, Filmmaker and Writer
Gea Meijers, Founding Member, International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation
Ginny Laag and Adrian Rox, London Atheist Activist Group
Giti Thadani, Writer
Greta Christina, Writer and Blogger
Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize Winner
Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizens Web
Helen Palmer, Chair, Central London Humanists Group
Hope Knutsson, President, Sidmennt – The Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association
Houzan Mahmoud, Spokesperson, Organisation for Women’s Freedom in Iraq
Ibn Warraq, Writer
Imad Iddine Habib, founder, Moroccan Council of Ex-Muslims
Ineke de Vries, Director, Humanistisch Verbond (Dutch Humanist Association)
Inna Shevchenko, Spokesperson, FEMEN
Jacek Tabisz, President, Polish Rationalist Society
Jacques Rousseau, South African Free Society Institute
John Eade, Centre for Research on Multiculturalism and Migration, University of Roehampton
Joyce Arthur, Women’s Rights Activist
Julie Bindel, Writer
Justin Trottier, Spokesperson, Canadian Secular Alliance
Lalia Ducos, Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights
Lila Ghobady, Filmmaker
Lloyd Newson, Director of DV8 Physical Theatre
Mano Singham, Blogger
Marieme Helie Lucas, Algerian Sociologist and founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Mark Embleton, President, Atheism UK
Maryam Jamel, Organisation of Women’s Liberation of Iraq
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Maryam Noory, Activist, Organisation of Women’s Liberation of Iraq
Massimo Redaelli, International Representative, Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti
Meredith Doig, President, Rationalist Society of Australia
Michael De Dora, Director, Office of Public Policy, U.N. Representative, Center for Inquiry
Michael Nugent, Chair, Atheist Ireland
Michael Payton, National Director, Centre for Free Inquiry Canada
Michele Lamb, Director, Crucible Centre for Human Rights Research University of Roehampton
Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson, International Committee against Stoning, International Committee against Execution and Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany
Mohamed Mahmoud, Sudanese Academic
Nadia El-Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker
Nahla Mahmoud, Sudanese Researcher and Human Rights Activist
Nigel Fountain, Journalist
Nina Sankari, President, European Feminist Initiative Poland
Nowrin Tamanna, Lecturer, University of Reading, and blogger at Muktangon blog
Rayhan Rashid, Blogger and member of International Crimes Strategy Forum, and Bangla Community Blog Alliance
Saikat Acharjee, Solicitor, and blogger at Muktangon Blog, and member of Bangla Community Blog Alliance (BCBA)
Sushanta Das Gupta, blogger at Amar Blog , member of Bangla Community Blog Alliance
Ofy Mazy, Leader, Union of Service Workers in Iraq
Patty Debonitas, Spokesperson, Iran Solidarity
Paul Anderson, Blogger
Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Raffaele Carcano, Secretary, Unione degli Atei e degli Agnostici Razionalisti
Rafiq Mahmoud, Activist
Rahila Gupta, Writer
Rebecca Watson, Blogger
Rein Zunderdorp, President, Humanist Historical Centre and De Vrije Gedachte (Netherlands Freethinkers Association)
Richard Dawkins, Scientist
Ronald A. Lindsay, President, Centre for Inquiry
Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director, American Humanist Association
Russell Blackford, Writer
Safia Lebdi, Co-founder, Neither Whores nor Submissives
Salil Tripathi, Writer
Samir Noory, Chair, Committee for Abolishing Capital Punishment in Iraq
Seth Andrews, Host, The Thinking Atheist
Silvana Uhlrich-Knoll, President, International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation
Sohaila Sharifi, Iranian Women’s Rights Campaigner
Sonja Eggerick, President, International Humanist and Ethical Union
Stephen Law, Centre for Inquiry UK
Stephen Stuart, President, Humanist Society of Victoria
Steve Chinn, General Secretary, Humanist Society Scotland
Suresh Grover, The Monitoring Group and AWAAZ (South Asia Watch)
Syed Anas Pasha, General Secretary, International Forum for Secular Bangladesh
Sylvia Estrada Claudio, Professor of Women and Development Studies, University of the Philippines
Taslima Nasrin, Writer
Tauriq Moosa, Writer
Terry Sanderson, President, National Secular Society
Tewfik Allal, Manifeste des libertés
Tom Flynn, Executive Director, Council for Secular Humanism
Udo Schuklenk, Professor of Philosophy
Waleed Al-Husseini, Palestinian blogger and Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of France
Everyone is welcome to show their support for the bloggers if you value freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. People in UK can help: Contact British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Gibson to urge him to lodge a formal complaint with the Government of Bangladesh over these anti-democratic arrests. People in USA can help by contacing the US Ambassador to Bangladesh. Pakistanis can help by contacting the Pakistani Ambassador to Bangladesh Mr Manzir Shafiq. You can also contact Bangladeshi embassy in your country or foreign office desk. Visit IHEU’s action page to get more details and help. You can also rally and protest outside Bangladeshi embassy in your country and show your support by using the hashtag #HumanistSolidarity #Bangladesh #MuzzleMeNot #Bloggers , you can sign the petition here , you can use the following banner I made as your own:
We need a coordinated global response in support of Bangladeshi bloggers. Many rallies and protests are expected all over the world in support of atheist bloggers of Bangladesh on 25th April 2013. I urge all my followers to do their part and stand up for freedom of speech. Nothing is sacred. No idea is above criticism,mockery or satire. It takes a lot to criticise an idea which already dominates your society (sometimes in a violent form). Bangladeshi bloggers should be appreciated,not thrown in jail. We all (theists and atheists) should work collectively to fight for freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.