EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 13/14/93
UA 364/93 Death threats 11 October 1993
BANGLADESH Taslima Nasrin (female), novelist
Amnesty International is seriously concerned that the Government of Bangladesh
is failing to provide protection for Taslima Nasrin, a Muslim woman novelist
accused of blasphemy and condemned to death on 1 October 1993 by an Islamist
group in Bangladesh. The group, the "Council of Soldiers of Islam", has called
for her death for writing a novel about the situation of a Hindu family in
Bangladesh. The Government of Bangladesh has banned the book.
After a previous death threat issued against her in September by the same group,
the authorities apparently failed to respond to Taslima Nasrin's appeal for
protection. Amnesty International is urging the Government of Bangladesh now
to ensure the safety of Taslima Nasrin as a matter of priority, and to bring
to justice without delay those calling for her death.
At a meeting in the north-western city of Sylhet on 1 October 1993, a Muslim
fundamentalist group known as "Council of Soldiers of Islam", an off-shoot
of Jamaat-i-Islami in Bangladesh, ruled that Taslima Nasrin's best seller,
Lajja (Shame), was blasphemous because it had "hurt the sentiments of people
of different faiths". The group then called for her death, offering $1,250
to anyone who kills her. The group had issued an earlier death threat against
Taslima Nasrin on 23 September 1993.
Independent Muslim observers believe that the death call has nothing to do
with blasphemy; they say it is in response to Taslima Nasrin's writings against
Muslim fundamentalism and male chauvinism in Bangladesh. She has published
15 poetry books, as well as newspaper columns and novels. In her writings,
which are all in Bengali, she has criticized Muslim fundamentalists for
violating women's rights and the government's failure to stop them.
The novel Lajja is about a Hindu family attacked by Muslims after the destruction
of the Babri mosque in Ayodha, India. In a statement obtained by Amnesty
International, Taslima Nasrin says:
"I was pained to learn about the riot caused by the destruction of Babri mosque
in India last year. Innocent people were killed in the name of religion.
While Hindu families were killing innocent Muslims, Islamic fanatics
were killing Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh. As a human being I tried
to show how a Hindu family was persecuted by Muslim fanatics in Bangladesh.
.. In the book I said let's uphold humanism instead of using religion
to kill each other."