The militant Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team released a statement Wednesday demanding the revocation of Bangladeshi citizenship for a list of writers, bloggers, and activists who have criticized Islamic extremism, The Guardian reports.
The demand finished with a threat: “Otherwise they will be killed wherever they can be found in the Almighty’s world.”
The so-called hit list, which goes back to 2013, has 84 names on it, according to the Indian Express.
The latest list includes the names of writers based in the UK, US, Germany, Canada, and Sweden.
Four Bangladeshi bloggers have been killed in 2015 alone, and the threats have been ongoing. Earlier this month, ABT threatened prominent Bangladeshis via text messages. In August, an unknown group calling itself Ittehad-ul-Mujahidin sent a letter threatening 19 named “enemies of Islam.” A 20th name was crossed out in red, pointing to a recently slain blogger.
The goal of the list, according to Arif Rahman, a United Kingdom-based Bangladeshi writer, is to instill fear in writers outside Bangladesh.
“It is a scaremongering tactic. The intention is to make us afraid,” Rahman told IBTimes UK. “In my case, I know it will not work. I will continue my work.”
Rahman, whose writing supports Bangladeshi secularism, said he has ignored many threats over the eight years of his writing career.
But for those in Bangladesh, the terror is more immediate.
Ananya Azad, an anti-extremism blogger, fled Bangladesh earlier this year after appearing on the list in May. He received a Facebook message telling him that he was next.
“What’s certain is I cannot stop my writing. I will publish my next book. I am an ardent supporter of secularism and rationalist thinking and I will continue to write on these issues,” Azad told The Diplomat.
The tension between Islamists and secularists is nothing new in Bangladesh. Secularism was included in the original 1972 constitution, only to be removed and then reinstated again.
Protests in 2013, now known as the Gonojagoron Mancha – National Awakening Stage – reopened that rift as protesters demanded the death sentence for Abdul Quader Molla, an Islamist who had been convicted of war crimes from Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971.
By August of that year, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, had been banned. The party’s ban and harsh punishments for Bangladeshi Islamists who, like Molla, were found guilty of war crimes during the war of 1971, have led to the recent wave of anti-secularist violence.