Five Sentenced To Death For Murder Of Bangladeshi-American Blogger

Five people have been sentenced to death for the 2015 murder of Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy, while a sixth has been sentenced to life in prison. All six men were members of armed group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), an Al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist militant organization operating in Bangladesh. The group has been responsible for the deaths of numerous secular activists and bloggers over the past few years. 

Roy, a writer and advocate for free expression, was hacked to death while returning home from a Dhaka book fair on February 26th, 2015. His wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, who was with him at the time, was critically injured but survived the attack. Roy was the founder of Mukto-Mona — meaning ‘freethinker’ — a popular blog where Bangladeshi freethinkers, atheists, and secularists would share articles on topics pertaining to scientific reasoning, humanist ideas, and the condemnation of religious extremism. He was also a published author, having written a series of books whose subject matter explored themes of atheism, homosexuality, astrophysics, and evolution. He was eventually targeted by the ABT due to his criticizing of religious extremism.

The attack occurred at a time in which Bangladesh was experiencing a string of targeted killings against activists and bloggers, many of which were claimed by ISIS or Al-Qaeda-aligned groups. The gravest occurred in July 2016, when 22 people were killed after gunmen stormed a cafe in Dhaka; it incited a nation-wide crackdown that led to the arrests and killings of hundreds of suspected militants, and the setting up of major anti-terrorism police units by the Bangladesh government in an effort to abolish Islamist militants.

According to CTV News, the men’s defence lawyer said they plan to appeal the verdict. Two of the men remain at large and were tried in absentia, including Syed Ziaul Haq, a sacked army major who is believed to have been the mastermind behind the killing. Despite the sentencing, Roy’s widow doesn’t believe the verdict will bring peace to her family and has criticized the investigation. “In six years, not one person investigating the case in Bangladesh reached out to me – though I am a direct witness and victim of the attack,” she wrote in a statement posted on Facebook. “Simply prosecuting a few foot-soldiers – and ignoring the rise and roots of extremism – does not mean justice for Avi’s death,” she continued.

While counterterrorism approaches play an unequivocally crucial role in the fight against extremism, Ahmed is correct. Efforts to prevent and end extremism must be targeted at the root, with a focus on strengthening social and political institutions as opposed to only killing and prosecuting militants. The country’s weak democratic institutions must be addressed, and it is time for institutional reforms to be put in place. Bangladeshi writers and bloggers should be able to speak freely, without fear of reprisal, and without fear of being murdered — as should anyone.


Yemen, The Largest Humanitarian Crisis In The World

In the past, Yemen was a prosperous developing country suffused with economical and societal riches. Yemen’s roots in the development and distribution of internationally admired goods like coffee and gold date back centuries, which served as a reliable foundation for growth across much of its existence. However, over time it became apparent that Yemen’s unique capabilities would not prove to be an efficient protective mechanism against the travesties of humanity’s inner workings. Slowly, due to international involvement and rivaling political parties intervening with the nation’s societal welfare, the peace that Yemenis embraced for many years was beginning to dissolve into a thing of the past.
2015: The Ignition to Civil Turmoil
In 2004, the United States pushed the president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to concentrate on combating a terrorist group known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In response, Yemen’s military force backed by Saudi Arabia launched multiple strikes against a group known as Houthis, who Saleh alleged were creating a dynamic of separatism ,enforcing their religious beliefs on the country’s people and operating in collusion with AQAP. This created a severe rift between the most prominent religious parties in the nation, which established a hostile environment for the state of Yemen and all of its citizens. The trend towards a civil war, indicated by this long standing atmosphere of tension and conflict finally came to a precipice 11 years later. In February of 2015, the Houthi rebellion finally reached the place of power that it desired by forcing Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi (then leader of Yemen, and technically still president of the nation today) and his cabinet to flee to Saudi Arabia, leaving the Houthis essentially in control of the state and all of its facilities. Just a month later, the Saudi Arabian military set the goals of its military intervention to reverse the nation back into the authority of the Hadi government and retain governance over Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Ever since, these two factions have fought relentlessly for control over the nation, which once gave off a lustrous tint of optimism, but after seemingly endless warfare it has been reduced to a pile of debris and a living case study of how a society can collapse under the pressures of greed, religious opposition, and the corruption of foreign affairs.

The Current State of the Humanitarian Crisis
The civil war in Yemen has decreased the living conditions of its people to a terrifying level. With no resolution in sight, Yemeni people are faced with a situation where optimism for a brighter future seems more like an act of dreaming than a mental reflection of reality. In recent weeks, famine conditions caused by blockades on the borders of the nation and massive economic downfall rivaling famous events on global markets like the Great Depression have reached virality in an increased amount of regions around Yemen. It is estimated that nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five in Yemen are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition and could die if they do not receive urgent treatment. Along with mass starvation, the nationwide warfare has resulted in the displacement of approximately 4 million people, and the killing of over 100 000 people since 2015. These numbers give shocking insight into the sheer magnitude of this humanitarian crisis, and with important political figures like the U.S. President Joe Biden recently announcing reductions in international affairs including the civil war in Yemen, it is difficult to perceive a future where Yemeni citizens will be able to go back to the things they love. An individual can only enjoy the level of happiness that their society’s living conditions permits them to, and unfortunately for the Yemeni people, the likelihood of that ever getting back to a point of admiration remains shrouded in mystery.

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