Bangladesh: Fears for safety of writer after attacks on him and his family

Anannyo Azad was abducted by three unknown men at about 4:15pm on 24 July in a street near his home in the capital Dhaka. He was forced into a nearby alley and, according to a press report in the Daily Star newspaper, was questioned about his father’s movements: “They asked me about my father’s next visit abroad but I refused to tell them anything. They got furious and one of them slapped me and broke my glasses, saying they would not release me unless I tell them everything about the visit.” After about two hours he managed to escape by jumping over a wall.

The next day an anonymous telephone call was made to the family home. Dr Humayun Azad was told: “There is a bomb blasting right now, run away, run away”. Concern for the safety of the family is heightened by an earlier attack on Dr Humayun Azad. On 27 February, unknown individuals stabbed him three times causing serious injuries for which he needed extensive medical treatment in Bangladesh and Thailand. Dr Humayun Azad returned to Dhaka in early May and his health is reportedly improving. Police officers have been guarding his home since the attack, but have yet to identify his attackers or those threatening the family.

Dr Humayun Azad’s book is based on the activities of religious groups in Bangladesh that collaborated with the Pakistani army during the 1971 independence war. Islamist groups reportedly took exception to comments made in the book, which they felt were allegorical and derogatory references to their own activities. They began to agitate against the book’s publication and lobbied, unsuccessfully, for the introduction of a blasphemy law to ban such publications.

Amnesty International said:

“This cowardly attack on a 16-year-old boy must not go unpunished. Those responsible must be brought swiftly, and fairly, to justice.

“The authorities have a responsibility to protect people who are attacked just for peacefully expressing their views and they must live up to this responsibility.

“Amnesty International will not stand by and allow such attacks to go unnoticed.”

Amnesty International members are writing urgent appeals to the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, urging the authorities to provide adequate and effective protection to all members of the family and to carry out an independent and impartial investigation of the abduction of Anannyo Azad, the death threats made against the family and the 27 February attack against Dr Humayun Azad.

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