April 26, 2016 at 12:19 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Murdered Bangladesh LGBT magazine editor was ‘brave man’

Xulhaz Mannan, gay news, Washington Blade

Xulhaz Mannan was hacked to death in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on April 25, 2016. A close friend told the Washington Blade that he was a “brave man.” (Photo courtesy of Bangladesh Against Homophobia)

A close friend of the editor of Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine who was hacked to death mourned him during an hour-long interview with the Washington Blade on Tuesday.

“He’s a very brave man,” said the friend, referring to Xulhaz Mannan.

The friend, who asked to remain anonymous because of concerns over their personal safety, spoke with the Blade less than 24 hours after a group of men hacked Mannan and his friend, Tanay Mojumdar, to death inside an apartment building in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

Media reports indicate the men who attacked Mannan and Mojumdar gained access to the apartment building by claiming they worked for a courier company.

Ansar-al-Islam, the Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for the attack. The Associated Press reported the militant group said it targeted Mannan and Mojumdar because they were “pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality.”

“It was planned,” Mannan’s friend told the Blade. “They came to his house. They martyred him. He was not ready to die.”

A member of the Bangladeshi LGBT community who also asked the Blade not to publish their name because of security concerns was inside the apartment building when the attack took place.

The LGBT Bangladeshi told the Blade that three men in their early 20s were screaming “God is great” as they struck Mannan in the head and neck with a machete outside his apartment on the building’s third floor. The community member said the men “all of a sudden” began attacking Mojumdar.

“I saw blood everywhere,” said the LGBT Bangladeshi.

Mannan’s friend told the Blade the apartment in which Monday’s attack took place was “a safe haven” for the local LGBT community.

“It’s one of those rooms that I think of as my second home,” said the friend. “Its all blood soaked.”

U.S. condemns ‘brutal murders’

Mannan helped launch Roopbaan, a magazine that shares its name with a Bangladeshi LGBT advocacy group, in 2014.

The prominent LGBT rights advocate worked for the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka for eight years. Mannan joined the U.S. Agency for International Development last September.

“The U.S. government deplores the brutal murders this evening in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that took the life of Xulhaz Mannan,” said National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price in a statement the White House released on Monday. “An employee of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mr. Mannan served the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka with distinction, and he worked on behalf of his fellow Bangladeshis as a voice for justice, equality, and human rights for all.”

“Mr. Mannan set an example of dignity, courage, and selflessness, and his legacy will live on in the causes he championed,” added Price.

Secretary of State John Kerry, USAID Administrator Gayle Smith and U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat are among those who also condemned Mannan and Mojumdar’s murders.

‘There were specific threats’

The murders of Mannan and Mojumdar took place two days after members of the so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the hacking death of Rezaul Karim Siddique, a university professor, in the northwestern part of the country. A number of other secular academics, writers and bloggers and members of religious minority groups have also been killed by Islamists in Bangladesh since early 2015.

The Associated Press on Tuesday reported the U.S. is considering granting refugee status to a handful of secular Bangladeshi bloggers who are in “imminent danger.”

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.

Mannan’s friend told the Blade that Bangladeshi intelligence officials called Mannan and other advocates the night before the scheduled event and told them to cancel it. Mannan’s friend said that police arrested four young LGBT rights advocates who had gathered in the area where the “Rainbow Rally” was to have taken place.

“He was in double danger,” Mannan’s friend told the Blade. “There were specific threats that, ‘Your days are coming. Get ready. Be prepared. You will be our next target.’”

“He was scared, but he didn’t stop,” added Mannan’s friend.

Mannan’s friend and the community member with whom the Blade spoke both said Islamists have published a list of LGBT Bangladeshis who they have threatened to hack to death.

‘I don’t think the government will do anything’

Mannan’s funeral took place on Tuesday.

The Associated Press reported that his brother, Minhaz Mannan Emon, told mourners that a “true Muslim will always consider that he has freedom of expression.”

Bangladeshi authorities have yet to make any arrests in connection with the attack. The Obama administration and LGBT rights advocates in the U.S. and around the world have urged the Bangladeshi government to prosecute those responsible for Mannan and Mojumdar’s murders.

The Associated Press also reported that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accused the opposition Bangladesh National Party and the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami group of carrying out the attack. She made this allegation hours before Ansar-al-Islam claimed responsibility.

The LGBT Bangladeshi with whom the Blade spoke expressed a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to “thoroughly” investigate Mannan and Mojumdar’s murders.

“I don’t think the government will do anything,” said Mannan’s friend.

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

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