Roy in 2012
|Born||12 September 1972|
|Died||26 February 2015 (aged 42)|
|Occupation||Critic, columnist, IT engineer|
|Education||PhD in Biomedical Engineering|
|Alma mater||BUET, National University of Singapore|
|Genre||New Atheism, Science, Anarchism|
|Spouse||Rafida Ahmed Bonya|
|Relatives||Ajoy Roy (father)|
Shefali Roy (mother)
Avijit Roy (Bengali: অভিজিৎ রায়; 12 September 1972 – 26 February 2015) was a Bangladeshi-American online activist, writer and blogger known for creating and administrating the Mukto-Mona, an Internet community for freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists and humanists of mainly Bengali and other South Asian descent. Roy was an advocate of free expression in Bangladesh, coordinating international protests against government censorship and imprisonment of atheist bloggers. He was hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 26 February 2015; Islamic militant organization Ansarullah Bangla Team claimed responsibility for the attack.
Early life and education
His father, Ajoy Roy, was a professor of physics at University of Dhaka who received the Ekushey Padak award. Avijit earned a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from BUET. He earned a master's and doctoral degree in Biomedical Engineering from National University of Singapore.
Roy was the founder of the Bangladeshi Mukto-Mona (freethinkers) website which was one of the nominees of The Bobs (Best of Blogs) Award in the Best of Online Activism category. The site published death threats that author Humayun Azad had received before he was assassinated. Mukto-Mona began as a Yahoo group in May 2001, but became a website in 2002.
Roy described his writing as "taboo" in Bangladesh. He had received death threats from fundamentalist bloggers for his articles and books. Rokomari.com, a Bangladeshi e-commerce site, stopped selling Roy's books after its owner received death threats from Islamists.
Protests and advocacy
Our aim is to build a society which will not be bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy but would rather be based on reason, compassion, humanity, equality and science.— Avijit Roy
A Bangladeshi group, Blogger and Online Activist Network (BOAN), initiated the 2013 Shahbag protests that sought capital punishment for the Islamist leader and war criminal Abdul Quader Molla as well as the removal of Jamaat-e-Islami from politics. Islamist groups responded by organising protests calling for the execution of "atheist bloggers" accused of insulting Islam, and the introduction of a blasphemy law. Many atheist bloggers who supported the Shahbag protests came under attack, and Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed by Islamist groups on 15 February 2013. A month before the protest, blogger Asif Mohiuddin was attacked outside his house by four youths influenced by Anwar Al-Awlaki, and Sunnyur Rahman, known as Nastik Nobi (Atheist Prophet), was stabbed on 7 March 2013.
Asif Mohiuddin, a winner of the BOBs award for online activism, was on an Islamist hit list that also included the murdered sociology professor Shafiul Islam. Mohiuddin's blog was shut down by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, and he was jailed for posting "offensive comments about Islam and Mohammed." The secular government arrested several other bloggers and blocked about a dozen websites and blogs, as well as giving police protection to some bloggers.
International organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the imprisonment of bloggers and the climate of fear for journalists.
Avijit Roy wrote that he was disgusted that the Bangladeshi media portrayed young bloggers as "crooks in the public eye" and wrote to Western media outlets and the Center for Inquiry and the International Humanist and Ethical Union for support. Roy went on to coordinate international protests in Dhaka, New York City, Washington, D.C., London, Ottawa and other cities in support of the jailed bloggers. He was joined by writers, activists, and prominent secularists and intellectuals around the world including Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin, Hemant Mehta, Maryam Namazie, PZ Myers, Anu Muhammad, Ajoy Roy, Qayyum Chowdhury, Ramendu Majumdar and Muhammad Zafar Iqbal in publicly expressing their solidarity with the arrested bloggers.
In 2015, Roy went to Dhaka with his wife Bonya during the Ekushey Book Fair. On the evening of 26 February, he and Bonya were returning home from the fair by bicycle rickshaw. At around 8:30 pm, they were attacked near the Teacher Student Center intersection of Dhaka University by unidentified assailants. Two assailants stopped and dragged them from the rickshaw to the pavement before striking them with machetes, according to witnesses. Roy was struck and stabbed with sharp weapons in the head. His wife was slashed on her shoulders and the fingers of her left hand were severed. Both of them were rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, where Roy was pronounced dead around 10:30 pm. Bonya survived. In an interview with BBC's Newshour, she said that police stood nearby when they were attacked on the spot but did not act.
In a Twitter post on the day after his death, an Islamist group, calling itself Ansar Bangla-7, claimed responsibility for the killing. Ansar Bangla-7 is said to be the same organization as Ansarullah Bangla Team. A case of murder was filed by Roy's father without naming any suspects at Shahbagh thana on 27 February 2015. According to police sources, they are investigating a local Islamist group that praised the killing.
Avijit's body was placed at Aparajeyo Bangla in front of the Faculty of Arts building (Kala Bhavan) at Dhaka University on 1 March 2015 where people from all walks of life, including his friends, relatives, well-wishers, teachers and students, gathered with flowers to pay their respect to the writer. As per Roy's wish, his body was handed over to Dhaka Medical College for medical research.
On 6 March 2015, a four-member team of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) along with detective branch of Bangladesh Police inspected the spot where Roy was killed. The FBI members collected evidence from the site and took footage to help in the investigation.
3 May 2015, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for the murder of Roy and the deaths of other "blasphemers" in Bangladesh in a report published by SITE intelligence group.
On 2 March 2015, Rapid Action Battalion arrested Farabi Shafiur Rahman, a radical Islamist. It was suspected by the police that Farabi had shared Roy's location, identity, family photographs, etc. with the killer(s). Farabi had threatened Roy several times through blogs and social media sites including Facebook. He said on different posts and comments that Roy would be killed upon his arrival in Dhaka.
On 18 August 2015, three members of Ansarullah Bangla Team, including a British citizen, named Touhidur Rahman who police described as "the main planner of the attacks on Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das", had been arrested in connection with the two murders.
After the death of Roy, students, teachers, bloggers and intellectuals around the country gathered at Dhaka University, demanding quick arrest of the killers. The Mukto-Mona website bore the message in Bengali "We are grieving but we shall overcome" against a black background.
Secretary-General of the United Nations spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric condemned the killing and said "On the attack of the blogger, we spoke to our human rights colleagues who obviously condemned the attack and expressed the hope that the perpetrators will be quickly brought to justice through the due process of law."
The head of Reporters without Borders Asia-Pacific stated "We are shocked by this act of barbarity" and added "It is unacceptable for [police] to spend so much time searching news outlets, arresting journalists, censoring news and investigating bloggers, when the many attacks on bloggers are still unpunished."
The CEO of Index on Censorship, Jodie Ginsberg, said: "Our sympathies are with the family of Avijit Roy. Roy was targeted simply for expressing his own beliefs and we are appalled by his death and condemn all such killings."
The Asia Program Coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists stated "This attack is emblematic of the culture of impunity that pervades Bangladesh, where the lack of accountability in previous attacks on the press continues to spurn [sic] a deadly cycle of violence."
Humanist groups expressed horror at the loss of a colleague. The Center for Inquiry's chief UN representative stated "Avijit was brilliant, yes, and a devoted advocate of free expression and secularism, but also just a very good person." Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association, which awarded Roy and other bloggers the Free Expression Award in 2014, said "With Avijit’s death, Bangladesh has lost not just a son, but a forceful proponent of human rights and equality for all its people."
The British High Commissioner Robert Gibson expressed his concern in a tweet saying, "Shocked by the savage murder of Avijit Roy as I am by all the violence that has taken place in Bangladesh in recent months".
- Roy, Avijit. Alo Hate Choliyache Andharer Jatri আলো হাতে চলিয়াছে আঁধারের যাত্রী [Caravan Of Darkness Walking With Light In Hand] (in Bengali). Dhaka: Ankur Prakashani. ISBN 9844641241.
- —— (2007). Mahabishe Pran O Budhimattar Khonje মহাবিশ্বে প্রাণ ও বুদ্ধিমত্তার খোঁজে [In Search Of Life And Intelligence In The Universe] (in Bengali). Dhaka: Obshor Prokashan. ISBN 9844152127.
- —— (2008). Bisshash Er Virus বিশ্বাসের ভাইরাস [The Virus of Faith]. Mukto-Mona.com (in Bengali). Dhaka: Shuddhashar Prokashani.
- —— (2010). Somokamita: Ekti Boigganik Ebong Shomaj Monostattik Onushandhan সমকামিতা : একটি বৈজ্ঞানিক এবং সমাজ-মনস্তাত্বিক অনুসন্ধান [Homosexuality: A Scientific and socio-psychological investigation]. Mukto-Mona.com (in Bengali). Dhaka.
- Abir, Raihan; —— (2011). Obisshahser Dorshon অবিশ্বাসের দর্শন [The Philosophy of Disbelief] (in Bengali). Dhaka: Jagriti Prokashoni. ISBN 978-984-8972-02-1.
- —— (2014). Bisshash Er Virus: Bisshash Er Bibortinio Bishleshon বিশ্বাসের ভাইরাস: বিশ্বাসের বিবর্তনীয় বিশ্লেষণ) (in Bengali). Dhaka: Jagriti Prokashoni. ISBN 9789849091455.
- Attacks on secularists in Bangladesh
- Humayun Azad
- Murder of Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi
- Political repression of cyber-dissidents
- List of journalists killed in Bangladesh
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- শেষ শ্রদ্ধার পর অভিজিতের মরদেহ বাসায়. Prothom Alo (in Bengali).
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Blogger Asif Mohiudeen, arrested on 3 April for allegedly posting blasphemous comments online, remains in detention and at risk of torture
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Reporters Without Borders condemns the baseless judicial proceedings brought against the detained blogger Asif Mohiuddin, who could be tried and convicted on a charge of blasphemy and "hurting religious sentiments" at his next hearing
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