Updated October 12, 2016
Today, October 12, would have been Xulhaz Mannan’s 41st birthday. But as we noted below, tragically, Xulhaz and Mahbub Tonoy, were brutally hacked to death by extremists in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on April 25. Xulhaz was the founder and publisher of Bangladesh’s first and only LGBTQ magazine, Roopbaan. Xulhaz was a charismatic thought leader who outlined a cultural revolution for the LGBTQ community in Bangladesh. He envisioned country’s first LGBT magazine and a queer poetry collection, organized the first public rally for the community, initiated a platform to engage and empower people by events like an LGBT film festival, a fashion show, leadership program, cultural events and many more.
“Today we celebrate a life taken from us far too soon,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. “On Xulhaz Mannan’s birthday we recognize the many courageous and determined LGBTQ people around the world who have been killed in the struggle to live their lives openly and authentically. We will honor them by continuing their work and keeping their memory alive.”
Updated May 4, 2016
Two employees of Bangladesh’s first and only LGBTQ magazine, Roopbaan, have been brutally murdered in an apartment building in Dhaka, the country’s capital. The magazine’s editor Xulhaz Mannan, 35, and a colleague, Tanay Mojumdar, were hacked to death by a group of assailants. Mannan was an employee of USAID in Dhaka and a nephew of Bangladesh’s first female foreign minister.
According to the BBC, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina has until recently claimed that the group has no presence in the country. Additionally, CNN reported that a local affiliate of al Qaeda also claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Manna and Mojumdar had been targeted because they were “pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality.”
Mannan and his colleague’s murder are part of a wider campaign of violence by extremists in recent years targeting civil society leaders, Hindu and Christian religious minorities, atheists, foreigners and now LGBTQ people. An English professor in the city of Rajshahi and an atheist blogger in Dhaka were murdered in similar attacks in the last few weeks and a total of nine liberals have been murdered in the country this year.
U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Bernicat condemned the killings and urged the government “in the strongest terms to apprehend the criminals behind these murders.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also condemned the “barbaric murders” and described Mannan as a “trusted colleague, beloved friend, and advocate for human rights and dignity in Bangladesh.” USAID Administrator Gayle Smith praised Mannan’s work to deepen political understanding throughout the country and called on the “cowardly attackers” to be brought to justice. The U.S. National Security Council also issued a statement deploring the murders.
“HRC joins the international community in mourning the death of Xulhaz Mannan. His death follows a worrying pattern of attacks targeting secular activists, religious minorities, activists and academics by extremist Islamic groups,” HRC Global Director Ty Cobb said. “The government of Bangladesh needs to take immediate measures to end these attacks and end the sense of impunity among attackers by arresting and bringing them to justice.”
On April 28, Secretary of State John Kerry called Bangladesh Prime Minister Hasina to “offer U.S. support for the investigation into the attack that killed human rights advocate and U.S. Embassy employee Xulhas Mannan, along with Tonmoi Mahbub.” He went on to urge Prime Minister Hasina to increase efforts to prevent future attacks and ensure the safety of Bangladeshi people.
Bangladesh is one of several South Asian countries that continue to criminalize LGBTQ people using an archaic British colonial-era law known as Section 377. Despite the presence of several LGBTQ rights organizations in the country, sexual and gender minorities in the country face severe social and economic challenges and these murders are likely to add to the challenges.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families and friends and the Bangladeshi LGBTQ community.