By Ranbir Singh Sidhu
After a lull of several months, machete killings of writers, editors, and academics have returned to Bangladesh. On Monday, 35-year-old Xulhaz Mannan, the editor of the country’s only LGBT magazine, Roopbaan, was hacked to death in his apartment in the upscale Kalabangan neighborhood of the capital city, Dhaka. The reported five or six attackers gained entry into the apartment by posing as couriers. Mannan worked at USAID and launched the magazine in 2014 to promote LGBT rights and visibility in the predominantly Islamic nation, where homosexuality remains a criminal offense.
A friend of Mannan’s, an openly gay activist and local actor, Tanay Majumder, or “Tonoy” to friends, was also killed in the attack. In 2014, the two men organized the country’s first “Rainbow Rally” to fight for LBGT rights and acceptance, though this year the event was canceled on orders from police, who cited security concerns.
Hardline Islamists continue to feel emboldened in Bangladesh, where the ruling party, though nominally secular, actively courts fringe religious elements to bolster its electoral support. The attack comes only two days after the murder of Rezaul Karim Siddique, a 58-year-old English professor who was hacked to death by men carrying machetes as he walked home from the bus station in the provincial city of Rajshahi. ISIS claimed responsibility for Siddique’s death, accusing him of atheism. His daughter strongly disputed the charge, and she said she had no idea why he was targeted, as he was not an outspoken secularist, either in print or on social media.
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