The Dhaka Times reported that Xulhaz Mannan, who was an editor of Roopbaan, and a friend, Tanay Mojumdar, were killed inside an apartment in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. The newspaper said up to half a dozen young men who claimed they worked for a courier company entered the apartment building and attacked Mannan and Mojumdar.
Mannan, who was also a prominent LGBT rights advocate in the South Asian country, worked at the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka.
“I am devastated by the brutal murder of Xulhaz Mannan and another young Bangladeshi this evening in Dhaka,” said U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat in a statement. “Xulhaz was more than a colleague to those of us fortunate to work with him at the U.S. Embassy. He was a dear friend. Our prayers are with Xulhaz, the other victim, and those injured in the attack. We abhor this senseless act of violence and urge the government of Bangladesh in the strongest terms to apprehend the criminals behind these murders.”
U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Gayle Smith said in a statement that Mannan worked for the U.S. Embassy for eight years until joining USAID last September.
“Today, USAID lost one of our own,” said Smith. “On behalf of our entire team, I send our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of USAID Foreign Service National Xulhaz Mannan, who was brutally murdered in Bangladesh today. We condemn this cruel and inhumane act of violence and add our voices to all those calling to bring his cowardly attackers to justice.”
State Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters during his daily press briefing described Mannan as a “staunch defender of LGBT rights.”
“He was a staunch defender of LGBT rights,” said Kirby. “He was brutally, viciously murdered in his own home and that’s just atrocious and barbaric.”
Bangladesh Against Homophobia, an LGBT advocacy group, described Mannan’s death on its Facebook page as “a devastating blow to the LGBT movement in Bangladesh.” An LGBT rights activist in Bangladesh who asked the Washington Blade not to publish their name because of safety concerns also mourned Mannan.
“We just lost our Harvey Milk of Bangladesh,” said the advocate.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in a statement said he condemns Mannan and Majumder’s murders “in the strongest way possible.” Gay Men’s Health Crisis CEO Kelsey Louie noted his organization is “saddened and horrified by the killing of a leading gay rights activist and editor at Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine.”
“These senseless acts of violence reminds us how critical it is for our political leaders to be dedicated to advancing social justice and equal rights for all people, and we will continue our fight to end stigma surrounding the LGBT community in the wake of this tragedy,” said Louie in his statement.
Roopbaan, a Bangladeshi LGBT advocacy group, began to publish the magazine that shares its name in 2014.
Mannan’s death comes two days after members of the so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the hacking death of Rezaul Karim Siddique, a university professor, in northwestern Bangladesh. A number of other secular academics, writers and bloggers and members of religious minority groups have also been killed by Islamists in Bangladesh over the last year.
The Bangladeshi advocate with whom the Blade spoke said an Islamist group really wrote on its Facebook page that “it is high time to eliminate gays” from the country.
Roopbaan cancelled a “Rainbow Rally” that was to have taken place during a Bengali New Year celebration in Dhaka on April 14 because Islamists had threatened to attack participants. The advocate with whom the Blade spoke on Monday said that Roopbaan was also targeted.
The activist said the Bangladeshi government “did not care about that threat” and did not remove it from the Islamist group’s Facebook page. 76crimes.com reported that police arrested four LGBT rights activists who had gathered in the area where the April 14 event was to have taken place.
“The brutal killing today of an editor of an LGBTI publication and his friend, days after a university professor was hacked to death, underscores the appalling lack of protection being afforded to a range of peaceful activists in the country,” said Amnesty International South Asia Director Champa Patel in a statement.
Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb echoed Patel.
“HRC joins the international community in mourning the death of Xulhas Mannan, said Cobb in a statement. “His death follows a worrying pattern of attacks targeting secular activists, religious minorities, activists and academics by extremist Islamic groups. 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.”
The Dhaka Tribune reported that Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Kahn said the murders were “a targeted one.” He said the investigation into Mannan and Mojumdar’s deaths continues.