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World

In Bangladesh, Editor OF LGBT Magazine Is Hacked To Death

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The latest writer killed in Bangladesh is the founder of an LGBT magazine. His name was Xulhaz Mannan. He was in his apartment with a friend when both were hacked to death. Extremists have claimed responsibility for numerous knife attacks on secular and liberal writers in that country. So we're going to talk with Saad Hammadi, an investigative journalist based in Dhaka, which is the capital of Bangladesh.

Welcome to the program, sir.

SAAD HAMMADI: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: How prominent was this latest victim?

HAMMADI: Xulhaz was working in U.S. Embassy for quite some time. And then he moved to the USAID. And he has been a pretty out and prominent activist of the LGBT community. Most of the people within the community are in a very close group because of the conservative society that Bangladesh lives in.

INSKEEP: You mentioned that he worked at the U.S. Embassy for USAID, the Agency for International Development, also that he founded this magazine. And when you talk about a close-knit group because of the kind of society, isn't homosexual activity actually illegal in Bangladesh?

HAMMADI: Homosexual activity is illegal in Bangladesh, which is why the community goes in a very close-knit community, and they don't quite come out as often. But this community that I'm talking about, the LGBT group and the magazine, has been a campaign to raise their rights, to raise their voice, to have an existence within the community.

INSKEEP: Is this correct? Amnesty International says five different writers have been killed in the country and that no one is in prison for any of the killings.

HAMMADI: In fact, six bloggers have been killed since 2013, a publisher, a professor and now Xulhaz. So there are nine people I can remember who have been killed in a similar way by hacking them on the shoulder or head. And the claims have been taken in all these cases by either Islamic State affiliates or al-Qaida affiliates.

INSKEEP: All of whom their existence is denied by the government.

HAMMADI: Their existence is denied by the government. The government claims that it's a homegrown militancy being endorsed by political opposition. Either way, whichever it is, the government has not been able to arrest the perpetrators of the killings. It's only a blame game that this government has been resorting to.

INSKEEP: How has this affected those of you who are writers in terms of deciding what to do and also what to write?

HAMMADI: I was talking to a professional of international relations yesterday. He was saying that - how terrorized he feels when he goes to work. And the same goes for all writers, including myself. And they have been successful because these terrorist groups or the perpetrators have not been brought to justice, which only gives them insurance of impunity.

INSKEEP: Saad Hammadi is based in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. He's a reporter. Thank you very much.

HAMMADI: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.