Raihan Abir and his wife Samia Hossain are two atheists from Bangladesh who currently fear for their lives. After learning about the brutal deaths of several of their colleagues over the past year for the “crime” of criticizing religion, they vowed not to fall victim to the same fate.
Affan Chowdhry of The Globe and Mail tells their remarkable story:
On May 12, Samia called Raihan at his office at the University of Dhaka. Her instructions were to the point: “You need to go.”
Earlier that day, Raihan’s book editor and close friend, Ananta Bijoy Das, had stepped out of his home in the northeastern city of Sylhet for the daily commute to his bank job when he was chased by men wearing masks and carrying machetes. His murder was the third such incident of the year.
“When he was killed, I said there is no way I’m not next,” Raihan said. “They will target me, of course.”
Abir was fortunate to get a Canadian visa, and he was assisted when he arrived by the Centre for Inquiry Canada. Months later, his wife joined him there. Since that time, other atheists (or those connected to atheists) have been murdered in Bangladesh, and the couple is doing everything in their power to prevent that from happening again.
Raihan has found safety while many of his friends still live in fear.
“I feel like, why me? Why I got the chance? But also I feel the responsibility of doing more work,” he said during a recent interview at the midtown Toronto office of the Centre for Inquiry Canada.
He and Samia had their asylum applications approved in November. They will eventually apply for permanent resident status.
It’s a hopeful story. But the question now is how many times it can be duplicated. As the article notes, Canada agreed to take in 25,000 refugees from Syria. Can it really be that much more difficult to take in a couple dozen Bangladeshi residents who live in fear that they could be hacked to death next?
(Image via Facebook)