April 25, 2018 at 4:34 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
USAID honors Bangladesh activist on second anniversary of murder

Xulhaz Mannan, gay news, Washington Blade

Xulhaz Mannan, a prominent Bangladeshi LGBTI rights activist who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, was hacked to death in his home in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 25, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Wednesday marks two years since a prominent LGBTI rights activist in Bangladesh and his friend were murdered.

A group of men hacked Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, a fellow activist, to death inside Mannan’s apartment in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on April 25, 2016.

Ansar al-Islam, the Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the murders.

Mannan was the co-founder and publisher of Roopbaan, the country’s first LGBTI magazine. He also worked for the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka for eight years before joining the U.S. Agency for International Development in September 2015.

“Xulhaz devoted his life to promoting progress in the country he loved dearly,” said USAID spokesperson Clayton McCleskey on Wednesday in a statement. “He believed deeply that all people — no matter who they are or who they love — deserve dignity, freedom and respect. Today we affirm our commitment to the principle of inclusion that drove Xulhaz’s work.”

A brick with Mannan’s name on it is now near the entrance of USAID’s D.C. headquarters. His name has also been added to a plaque at the State Department that honors Foreign Service personnel who have been killed.

USAID Administrator Mark Green earlier this month announced his agency has created the Xulhaz Mannan Inclusive Development Award. McCleskey in his press release said it “will be presented to a USAID employee who demonstrates a commitment to the inclusion of marginalized populations — including persons with disabilities, LGBT people, indigenous peoples, youth and ethnic and religious minorities — in USAID’s development efforts.”

“USAID is proud to honor Xulhaz’s legacy with this award,” said McCleskey.

Activists among those targeted by Islamic militants

Mannan and Tonoy are among the activists, secular academics, writers, bloggers and members of religious minority groups in Bangladesh who have been killed by Islamists since early 2015.

Authorities have arrested four people in connection with the murders of Mannan and Tonoy. The Daily Star, an English-language newspaper in Bangladesh, on Wednesday reported the men who are suspected of killing Mannan and Tonoy have yet to be taken into custody.

“On the second anniversary of this tragedy, we reflect on Xulhaz’s courage and conviction as a champion for human rights, nondiscrimination and inclusion,” said McCleskey. “We also renew our call for the authorities in Bangladesh to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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