Killing free speech: second atheist blogger murdered in a month in Dhaka

Rahman's death is one of a number of attacks on non-religious writers in Bangladesh.Mostaque Chowdhury/ Wikimedia Commons

An atheist blogger was hacked to death close to his home in the Bangladeshi capital on Monday. Another secular writer was killed in a similar attack just a few weeks ago, prompting criticism of the country's record on freedom of speech.

Washiqur Rahman, 27, died in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, after three men attacked him with machetes. He was killed only 500 metres from his home.

Police officials told Reuters that young religious students were responsible for the crime and two men have been arrested, although a third suspect escaped. Rahman was allegedly targeted because of his criticism of Islam, a police official told Associated Press. 

Avijit Roy was attacked and killed when visiting Dhaka with his wife in February.

Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy was killed on February 26 when men attacked him and his wife, Rafida Ahmed, with machetes while they were travelling in a rickshaw on a visit to the capital. His wife suffered head injuries and lost a finger in the attack.

Bangladeshi writer, Ahmed Rajid Haider, was killed in 2013.

Roy, founder of the Mukto-Mona or "free mind" blog site, had received threats after posts in which he offered secular interpretations on science and social affairs and which were criticised for being anti-Islam.

According to a Facebook page set up in Rahman's honour, he used a number of pseudonyms for his writing and had expressed his admiration for Roy's work and paid tribute to him after his death, using the hastag #iamavijit on Facebook.

Fellow Bangladeshi blogger Asif Mohiuddin, who was also attacked in 2013, told the BBC that he was grieved by Rahman's death and said he admired his work.

"I liked him for his satire, his sense of humour," Mohiuddin said. "He was a wonderful blogger and I'm very... upset right now."

The British Humanist Association has expressed concern about the rising intolerance in the south Asian nation.

BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said: "Once again, Bangladesh has lost a son, this time a satirist who criticised religious fundamentalism. How much more blood must be shed before Bangladesh will take action to protect its citizens?

"Bloody reprisals in response to perceived blasphemy have become an endemic problem, and states like Bangladesh must affirm the human right to express one's own beliefs without fear of attack, and do more to prevent such attacks from happening in future.'

Amnesty International said in a statement: "The horrifying murder... must be a 'wake up call' to the authorities on the need to create a safe environment for journalists and activists to express their views."

The Freedom of Thought report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, published earlier this year, found that non-religious people are being targeted by "hate campaigns" in many countries around the world.

Last year Reporters Without Borders ranked Bangladesh 146th of 180 countries for press freedom.