May 5, 2016 at 12:42 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
U.S. officials travel to Bangladesh

Xulhaz Mannan, gay news, Washington Blade

Xulhaz Mannan (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Gayle Smith on Wednesday offered condolences to the family of a Bangladeshi LGBT rights advocate who was hacked to death.

A USAID official told the Washington Blade that Smith “extended the agency’s condolences” to Xulhaz Mannan’s family “and offered its support during this very difficult time” during a meeting with USAID staffers and employees of the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh. Assistant USAID Administrator for Asia Jonathan Stivers and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal also attended the meeting that took place in the country’s capital of Dhaka.

A group of men hacked Mannan and his friend, Tanay Mojumdar, to death inside a Dhaka apartment building on April 25.

Xulhas Mannan, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Agency for International Development employees pay tribute to Xulhas Mannan at Circle Bistro in Northwest Washington on April 29, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Mannan launched Roopbaan — Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine that shares its name with an advocacy group — in 2014. He joined USAID last September after working for the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka for eight years.

Mannan ‘embodied courage and selflessness’

Biswal praised Mannan in a messages she posted to her Twitter account.

Advocates with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in recent days said the murders of Mannan and Mojumdar underscored the rampant anti-LGBT violence, persecution and discrimination they said exists in Bangladesh.

The murders took place two days after members of the so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the hacking death of a university professor in the northwestern part of the country.

Ansar-al-Islam, the Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaida, has claimed responsibility for the murders of Mannan and Mojumdar. Islamists have killed several other secular academics, writers, bloggers and members of religious minority groups in the country since early 2015.

Secretary of State John Kerry urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last week during a telephone call to thoroughly investigate the murders of Mannan and Mojumdar and others for which Islamists have claimed responsibility. The Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper, reported that Biswal is scheduled to meet with Hasina and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal in Dhaka on Thursday.

The advocates with whom the Blade has spoken have expressed doubt that the Bangladeshi government will thoroughly investigate the murders. They also said Hasina’s administration will use them as an excuse to further crackdown on freedom of assembly and other basic human rights.

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

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