After Bangladeshi police finally cracked down on Islamic radicals who were assassinating atheist bloggers, we haven’t seen any major attacks. (It’s only been a couple of months. Don’t get your hopes up.)
But while atheists in the country aren’t being killed at the moment, many have been spared only because they got the hell out of there before it was too late. The Guardian has a fascinating look at the current life of Raihan Abir, the co-author of a book about atheism with Avijit Roy, who was murdered in February of 2015.
In June of last year Abir travelled to Toronto, leaving behind [wife] Hossain who was six months pregnant at the time. Neither had any idea when they would see each other again. “I knew that I might not be able to see her for three or four years,” he says.
Still, she was ecstatic to see him go. “When the plane left and was in the air, I knew he would be alive. I was so happy,” says Hossain. An architect by training, she followed in her husband’s footsteps, applying for a visa to attend a conference in her field in Toronto. Two months later, a very pregnant Hossain was on a plane to Toronto.
Slowly the pair allowed themselves to shake off the fear that had coloured their lives in Dhaka. “In Bangladesh I literally would take one step and look behind my back. I wasn’t supposed to be alive,” says Abir as he sits at a table in the couple’s sparsely decorated apartment. His wife nods sombrely in agreement as she sits next to him. “Yeah, he wasn’t.”
Throughout the piece, as Abir decides whether or not to move to Toronto, and even as he’s going there, we hear about the death of another one of his colleagues. It was only a matter of time before he was also killed — but he managed to escape. That doesn’t mean he’s completely free. Even in Toronto, he has to watch his back, knowing he’s on terrorists’ hit lists.
But he’s working to help other Bangladeshi atheist activists whose lives remain in danger:
… “We’re trying to make connections with the outer world and get them to safe places. We don’t have any resources, we’re just trying to do what we can,” he says. “But it is really difficult to fight off machetes with a pen.”
This is what bravery looks like. Abir continues to work with the folks at Mukto-Mona, the website for atheist activists in South Asia.
(Image via Facebook. Thanks to Brian for the link)