May 12, 2015
Swedish PEN demands a response from the Swedish Embassy in Dhaka following Tuesday’s murder of the author and blogger Ananta Bijoy Dash
“You belong to a category of applicants where there is always a risk involved when granting a visa that you will not leave Schengen area after the visit. Furthermore, the purpose of your trip is not urgent enough to grant you visa.” (From the visa refusal of the Swedish Embassy in Dhaka)
More than a month ago Swedish PEN invited the Bangladeshi author and blogger Ananta Bijoy Dash to Stockholm to speak about the deteriorating situation in Bangladesh for journalists and writers, a topic that has become highly actual after the brutal murders of blogger Washiqur Rahman and writer Avijit Roy earlier in March.
PEN’s invitation followed the standard procedure used when representatives of the international press and defenders of freedom of expression are invited to meetings or events within the framework of PEN’s extensive program activities. For Ananta Bijoy Dash, the theme of the meeting which was to take place on May 3 in Stockholm in conjunction with the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, was inseparably linked with the reality he lived in as a secular blogger in a Bangladesh where extremism is increasingly on the rise. According to Swedish PEN, this made him uniquely suited to talk about these issues. But the Swedish Embassy in Dhaka refused to issue the visa required for him to visit Sweden.
Today we have received the news that Ananta has been brutally murdered.
This news has been received with great sadness and it has raised many questions.
To understand we need to look back at the decision that the Swedish Embassy in Dhaka sent after they rejected his visa application which he forwarded in his email to the Swedish PEN on the same day. In the final lines we read: “You belong to a category of applicants where there is always a risk involved when granting a visa that you will not leave Schengen area after the visit. Furthermore, the purpose of your trip is not urgent enough to grant you visa.”
Following up on the encouragement from the Swedish PEN Ananta Bijoy Dash filed an appeal to the Swedish embassy’s decision. At the same time Swedish PEN wrote a letter to the Swedish Embassy requesting that the decision should be reviewed, with the explanation that we wanted to meet with Ananta Bijoy Dash even even if our meeting should be postponed. This should have been dealt with by the Migration Court in Gothenburg within the next few weeks.
But it was too late. Early on Tuesday morning Ananta Bijoy Dash was hacked to death by men armed with machetes when leaving his home for work in the town of Sylhet in northern Bangladesh. He never got the opportunity to tell his and the others’ story for his Swedish colleagues on World Press Freedom Day.
It is our duty to know why.
Swedish PEN therefore demands a detailed and credible explanation of why the Swedish Embassy in Dhaka chose not to grant Ananta Bioy Dash the visa he needed to fulfill the Swedish PEN’s invitation to speak in Stockholm – a invitation that would have guaranteed his stay in Stockholm as Swedish PEN’s guest for two weeks upon his arrival, that was supposed to happen last weekend, and which could have ensured that he would still be here with us today.
For more information contact:
Ola Larsmo, Chairman of the Swedish PEN Tel: 070-826 85 57
Annika Thor, Chairman of the Writers in Prison Committee Tel: 070-753 66 42
Translation from Swedish: Bojan Lazic