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Attack Survivor Rafida Ahmed Bonya Talks About the Problems with Religious Freedom in Bangladesh

Back in February, author Dr. Avijit Roy and his wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed were returning home from a book fair in Dhaka (Bangladesh) where they were promoting Roy’s latest work when two assailants came after them with cleavers and “hacked them mercilessly.”Roy died shortly afterwards. Ahmed, who’s getting better, has been criticizing the government response ever since.

Back in February, author Dr. Avijit Roy and his wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed were returning home from a book fair in Dhaka (Bangladesh) where they were promoting Roy’s latest work when two assailants came after them with cleavers and “hacked them mercilessly.”

Roy died shortly afterwards. Ahmed, who’s getting better, has been criticizing the government response ever since.

She said in a public statement that “the local police stood close by and did not act” while they were being attacked. In another interview, she questioned why Bangladeshi officials hadn’t reached out to her: “It’s as if I don’t exist, and they are afraid of the extremists.”

Ahmed recently spoke to the British Humanist Association and the transcript of her talk is available online at Mukto-Mona, the online hub for atheists her husband founded. She talks about how Bangladesh got to this point and what must be done to fix the problem. It wasn’t without emotion:

Whenever I start to sink in to the deep sense of my personal loss, I realize that for all intents and purposes that I stand before you in a privileged position here today. I have been given a [platform] to speak, I have a comfortable life, a network of good friends and family who will support me through this ordeal. But what about those who have no voice, no agency, no platform? When the thousands of men and women get trafficked through the wild ocean, when girls get gang-raped in a public vehicle, ISIS butchers behead, when they force girls into sexual slavery, when Boko Haram abducts hundreds of young women and sells them off in medieval style, thousands of children die in poverty stricken nations, I see that they do not have a voice. I firmly believe that we need to have a sense of collective responsibility and consciousness. These are not isolated events, we need to understand the global phenomenon, the political, economic and social connections.

Very powerful speech worth reading in full. It was well-received, too:

Reacting to the speech, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Freedom of thought, speech and expression is one of the most fundamental human rights that we enjoy and yet it is also one that is most consistently under attack all around the globe. Bonya’s powerful and moving testimony speaks to the bravery that is needed in many parts of the world to be able to speak out as a humanist in a way that we take for granted here in the UK. We will continue to support individuals like Bonya, Asif Mohiuddin and their fellow bloggers, and work with our international partners to end blasphemy laws worldwide.’

(Portions of this article were published earlier. Thanks to Shabnam for the link. Image via YouTube)

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