August 29, 2016 at 9:00 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
John Kerry travels to Bangladesh, acknowledges murdered activist

Xulhaz Mannan, gay news, Washington Blade

Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged Xulhaz Mannan, a prominent Bangladeshi LGBT activist who was hacked to death earlier this year, during his meeting with U.S. Embassy personnel in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Aug. 29, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday acknowledged a prominent Bangladeshi LGBT activist who was hacked to death earlier this year.

Kerry told employees of the U.S. Embassy in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka that Xulhaz Mannan “was murdered by extremists.” He also noted the July 2 terrorist attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery that left 22 civilians and two Bangladeshi police officers dead.

The attack took place a few blocks away from the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka’s upscale Gulshan neighborhood.

“It’s impossible not to feel a change in the workplace, a change in day-to-day life,” said Kerry. “I just want all of you to know that you’re not feeling that change, you’re not experiencing that, by yourself. You’re not alone.”

Mannan — who founded Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine — joined the U.S. Agency for International Development last September. He had previously worked for the U.S. Embassy.

Members of Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent hacked Mannan and his friend, Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, to death inside a Dhaka apartment on April 25. Mannan’s nephew, Raj Islam, who is a member of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission, told the Washington Blade earlier this summer that the militants gouged his uncle’s eyes out in front of his elderly mother.

Mannan’s name has been added to a plaque inside the State Department that honors Foreign Service personnel who have been killed. USAID has placed a brick with his name on it near the entrance to its D.C. headquarters.

Kerry raises human rights with Bangladeshi prime minister

Mannan and Tonoy are among the human rights advocates, secular academics, writers, bloggers and members of religious minority groups who have been killed by Islamists in Bangladesh since early 2015. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government have come under increased criticism over its response to terrorism in the predominantly Muslim country.

Kerry met with Hasina while he was in Bangladesh.

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said Kerry discussed terrorism and “emphasized the importance of upholding human rights and democratic values” with her. Kerry also attended a lunch that Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali hosted and met with Khaleda Zia, chair of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, before leaving the country.

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

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