The United States says Bangladesh has made some progress in punishing a series of attacks against bloggers last year, but is still failing to provide enough support to minority groups who are also being persecuted by extremists.
The assessments were made in the US State Department’s annual international religious freedom report for 2016, which was released by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday.
“The (Bangladesh) government made some progress in arresting and indicting attackers of bloggers from previous years, although top officials continued to blame writers for offending religious sentiments,” the report said.
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The State Department noted how individuals and groups have continued to threaten bloggers and other individuals for “offending Islam”. In the latest attack on April 6, militants claiming affiliation with al-Qaeda killed another blogger.
“The US ambassador to Bangladesh and other embassy representatives have spoken out against acts of violence committed in the name of religion and have encouraged the government to uphold the rights of minority religious groups and to foster a climate of diversity and tolerance,” the report said.
In addition to attacks on bloggers, the report highlighted how Bangladesh did not adjudicate any of the 1 million-plus pending restitution cases which involve land seized from Hindus who were declared enemies of the state before the country’s independence.
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“According to religious minority groups, the government continued to discriminate against them in property disputes and did not adequately protect them from attacks,” said the report.
It noted that religious minority communities such as Hindus and Christians still report being displaced by the government, by force if necessary, because of land ownership disputes.
According to religious associations, such disputes continued to occur in areas near new roads or industrial development zones, where land prices had recently increased.
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The State Department also noted that terrorist organisations claimed responsibility for a significant number of attacks in 2016 against multiple religious minorities, particularly Hindus, in which at least 24 people were killed.
“Terrorist groups also targeted religious converts, Shia, and individuals who engaged in activities deemed atheistic,” the report said.
In the worst atrocity, five militants attacked the Holey Artisan restaurant in the diplomatic zone of Dhaka on 1 July, 2016. A total of 20 mainly non-Muslim people were killed, plus two police officers.
“The embassy publicly condemned the attacks against members of religious minorities and called on the government to bring those responsible to justice,” the State Department report said.
This article was first published
on Bangla Tribune.