The freedom of speech crisis in Bangladesh continues. The Guardian reported today, Sept. 23, that a deadly Islamic militant group has released a list of secular blogger, writers, and activists that it threatens to attack. This comes after several murders this year of Bangladeshi writers who were vocal critics of Islam.
The militant group, known as the Ansarullah Bangla Team or ABT, has previously focused its threats on bloggers in Bangladesh. This time, it seems to be targeting bloggers around the world—including nine writers in the United Kingdom, seven in Germany, two in the US, one in both Canada and Sweden, and others.
The Guardian does not link to the hitlist, but does quote a demand from the group’s accompanying statement, seemingly addressed to Bangladesh’s prime minister, to revoke the bloggers’ citizenships:
“Cancel the Bangladeshi citizenship of enemies of Islam and [Muslim religious] education, atheists, apostates, unbelievers, anti-Islamic… bloggers, agents of India… otherwise they will be killed wherever they can be found in the Almighty’s world.”
At the moment, it is unclear if the ABT, which is believed to be tied to al-Queda, has the resources or plans to carry out attacks on the people listed in their letter, or if their statement is meant to provoke other international extremists to carry out attacks on their own.
Ananya Azad, a popular Bangladeshi blogger currently in exile in Europe, told the Guardian that threats will not stop him from writing. “Our weapon is [the] pen, and we can use it without hurting anybody. We just want to make people conscious of their rights,” he said. He added, “I can’t say that I am fully safe, as the fundamentalists know where I am residing. I can’t say what will happen in the future, but I can give you this assurance that I will write until the end of my life.”