Exclusive Bangladesh: Why Bloggers are Being Executed

This is the third in a series of articles concerning the political climate of Bangladesh. Some information has already been stated. The last two articles can be viewed here and here. Some of the information provided is exclusive, only to be found on the Update. This information was gathered via original research.

Bangladesh is faced with a problem which made this series very difficult to write in the first place. A problem which the media would have one believe threatens all humans on Earth. Violence.

military dictatorship, tribune.com.pk
Soldiers patrolling the streets in 2007, when Bangladesh was ruled by a military dictatorship. Photo: tribune.com.pk

This series of articles once went under question for even existing, due to the safety risk of this specific article. The information given to The Update by our anonymous source is potentially dangerous, and The Update is honoured to have received such exclusive information.

Bangladesh’s most violent period is most assuredly behind it, with the perpetrators of a genocide committed during the Liberation War being brought in for trial. However, a sinister force lurks beneath the surface of Bangladesh.

ali ahsan mujahid presstv.ir
Ali Ahsan Mohammed Mujahid, one of the prosecuted. Photo: presstv.ir

After 9/11, the terrorist group al-Qaeda expanded at an exponential rate. It started affiliates in Kenya (al-Shabaab), Yemen (AQAP and infamously in Iraq (AQI, or as it was later known as, ISIS). The terrorist group also created an affiliate in Bangladesh, called the Ansarullah Bangla Team, or ABT.

ABT doesn’t go about its terrorism like most syndicates. Rare are the suicide bombings and mass shootings in Bangladesh. What ABT specializes in is one-on-one, old-fashioned murder. ABT have committed a series of murders against secular bloggers in Bangladesh, due to some of them being deemed to have insulted Islam.

While ABT is often focused on in the Western media as being a horrific terror group hell bent on destroying the current political structure of Bangladesh. However, our source claims that the threat posed by ABT is relatively minor.

Their most infamous attack was the murder of secular bloggers with machetes. However, this is their most well-known attack as the ABT have committed very few, with their only other well-known act of terror being a bank robbery.

ABT bank robbery, risingbd.com
ABT members arrested after robbing a bank. Photo: risingbd.com


ABT are a hot-button issue in Western media when discussion turn to Bangladesh because ABT is an Islamist terror group. ABT is not the Daesh of Bangladesh, far from it.

What threatens Bangladesh even more is the threat of growing violence.

Writer Malcolm Gladwell claims that all people have a ‘violence threshold’ of some kind. That is, if someone (with a threshold of 0) throws a rock, then “comes the person who will throw a rock if someone else goes first. He has a threshold of one.”

Or, as our anonymous source put it “If everybody around me was going around shooting people, [the idea of shooting would seem less abhorrent]”

malcolm gladwell
Author Malcolm Gladwell. Photo: macleans.ca

Malcolm Gladwell uses this theory in an article in the New Yorker to explain why the number of school shootings have exponentially increased since the Columbine massacre. Because media coverage of attacks like Columbine lowers the threshold of violence, the likelihood of similar attacks occurring increases.

One example of this ‘violence threshold’ in Bangladesh given to The Update was the murder of 13-year old Samiul Alam Rajon. Rajon was caught trying to steal a rickshaw, which prompted a lynch mob to tie him up to a post and beat him to death. Our source claims this to be an example of the threshold model. It started with one man (presumably the rickshaw owner) beating the boy, which prompted another to beat the boy, then another and another and so on and so forth.

samiul, bbc
Protesters condemning the people who beat Samiul. Photo: BBC

Hartals, which have been covered before in this series, are an excellent example of how a threshold can be lowered. It starts with a political party (in the most recent cases this party is the BNP) calling for a general strike/protest. This instantly lowers the threshold by a large margin, as a group of powerful people aren’t just condoning some acts of violence, but encouraging it. Then, when the hartal occurs, someone starts by throwing a rock. Another person will then throw more rocks. A third will smash car windows, until eventually you have buses being set on fire.

jamaat supporters hartal, news.xinhuanet.com
Jamaat supporters during a hartal. Photo: news.xinhuanet.com

ABT is seen in the West as the cause of the street violence in Bangladesh. However, it may be more of a symptom than the illness itself. ABT understands that Bangladesh is not Syria, it cannot form an army and attempt to conquer the nation. Terrorist groups are chameleons, mirroring the environment they live in. ABT happens to occupy a place where murder, street and mob violence are more common.

Our source claims that ABT presents a different type of danger than Daesh or their parent, al-Qaeda. The source claims that if a group of people argue over what Bangladesh’s future is, “it’s the most passionate person who’s going to win”, arguing that people like ABT skew the future of Bangladesh, due to their violent yet passionate views.

Our source describes the current members of Bangladeshi government as people who “suck up to the party leader”, as weak schmoozers. Meanwhile, people like the members of ABT are described as motivated and ideological.

“Do I see [Bangladesh] heading someplace towards the situation Iran has found itself in? I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened.”

However, our source believes that Bangladesh isn’t necessarily doomed. One example brought up is the attitudes and views on women in Bangladesh. While our source does admit “there are a lot of people who believe that women shouldn’t be out on the streets [alone]”, at the same time, Bangladesh has “a super strong workforce full of women… [These women work in] the garment industry, in homes… these women are hella feisty… They’re not going to have any man tell them what to wear and what not to wear.”

Our source says that while there is an “overarching culture” of women being subordinate in Bangladesh, Bangladesh has been run by the same two women (Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia) for the better part of two decades.

sheikh hasina ndtv.com
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Photo: ndtv.com

What made this article so difficult to write about was a hitlist published by ABT in September 2015. It was a list of various bloggers that ABT determined to be their enemies. ABT had already murdered several of these bloggers with machetes by the time the list was published. What made the list so controversial was its inclusion of 20 bloggers not situated in Bangladesh (and in some cases not even from Bangladesh). 9 of the bloggers live in the UK, and 7 in Germany. The Update originally decided to go ahead and publish this article anyway, due to the small threat it posed.

That decision happened to be made a scant five hours before the Paris Attacks occurred.

The article faced scrutiny after Paris, over fears that terrorism knows no borders. This article has been published anyway. Realistically, The Update will never suffer an attack from ABT or any likeminded group.

“You’re more likely to be fatally crushed by furniture than die in a terrorist attack” – The Washington Post

People tend to overinflate the risk of terrorism, especially Islamic fundamentalism. Statistically, only 2% of terrorist attacks in Europe are created by Islamic terror groups, yet they are the ones that receive attention.

After one of the Paris Attackers was revealed to have a Syrian passport, many claimed that Europe had to tighten its restrictions on refugees, because if they didn’t, nations like France could fall. Perhaps some are thinking the same way about Bangladesh. However, nations are resilient things, and tend to not die when they suffer attacks. Terrorism rarely succeeds, because in face of humanity, nothing is weaker.

Sources include Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker, The Guardian, BBC, Deutsche Welle, IAC/InterActiveCorp, Asia News Network and a source who wishes to remain anonymous.

The information presented in this article does not necessarily reflect the views or beliefs of The Update. We are reporting either the facts or opinions held by third parties related to the subject of the article.

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