Here’s the latest recording of the Secular Policy Institute’s international coordinating call.
I ÔÇô┬áSPI International Hot Spot of the Month ÔÇô┬áBangladesh Bloggers
September 21, 2015
High Commissioner Ant├│nio Guterres
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Gen├¿ve 2 D├®p├┤t
Dear High Commissioner Guterres:
We are the Secular Policy Institute, a secular government think tank and human rights advocacy organization. We write to you, along with the below signed organizations, to request a meeting to begin the process of initiating asylum eligibility for a group of writers and other secularists in Bangladesh on a terrorist-published ÔÇ£kill list,ÔÇØ who are being systematically butchered by cleavers and machetes.
The attacks started in January 2013 when Asif Mohuiddin was stabbed, and a month later murdered blogger Ahmed Rajib HaiderÔÇÖs body was said to be so brutalized that it was rendered ÔÇ£unrecognizableÔÇØ by those who knew him. Sunnyur Rhaman was attacked, but survived. University professor Shafiul Islam was slaughtered in November 2014. On 26 February of this year, two American citizens of Bangladeshi heritage were attacked at a book fair in Dhaka. Writer Avijit Roy and his wife Bonya Ahmed were brutally attacked with large knives killing Roy and though losing the fingers of her left hand, Ahmed survived. One month later another blogger, Washiqur Rahman (30 March 2015) was murdered in the same manner as were bloggers Ananta Bijoy Das (12 May 2015) and Niladri Chattopadhyay ÔÇ£Niloy NeelÔÇØ Niloy (7 August 2015).
Alongside high-profile coverage in the leading world news-media outlets; UNESCO, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and a host of other organizations have condemned these attacks and have called upon the Bangladeshi government to intervene, with little success. We stress urgency in this matter as nearly 80 individuals remain as targets at this time. Many have gone into hiding, yet that is certainly no guarantee of safety. We ask for assistance in granting asylum referral to those on the kill list.
Through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and both the UN Status of Refugees Convention (1951) and Protocol (1967) we argue that these writers and advocates deserve the international protection that asylum provides. A well-founded fear of persecution has been realized starting in 1992 on the organized attacks and continued harassment against Bangladeshi-author Taslima Nasrin (living in exile for 20 years). This has been further supported by the publication of a list and the systematic slaughter of targeted persons. We consider this a clear act of persecution. The Majority of those being targeted consider themselves to be Humanists and their writings an act of religious expression. As the kill list is targeting those in a writing-community, we consider this persecution for participation in a social group. Lastly, as the critique for which they are being targeted includes that of protests and commentary relating to a criminal trial of those alleged to have collaborated in the genocide of Bangladeshis in 1971, as well as that of public policy and social action, this is clearly a persecution based upon political opinions.
We request a meeting with your offices to establish an asylum-eligibility referral, as well as to assign a liaison to expedite the process.
II ÔÇô┬áSPI Overview (Edwina Rogers, CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-674-7800)
The Secular Policy Institute (SPI) is a think tank organization of thought leaders, writers, scholars, and speakers with a shared mission to influence public opinion and promote a secular society. We believe governmental decisions and public policies should be based on available science and reason, and free of religion or religious preferences.
Community Action Network (CAN) and Parent Teacher Community Action Network (PTCAN) (www.PTCAN.org)
Community Action Network (CAN) promotes the development and application of science and reason in an ongoing quest for secular solutions to local problems. As an inclusive, affirming, and action-oriented initiative, CAN seeks to promote rational relationships and effective community building in support of collective problem solving and the ongoing advancement and enjoyment of a more just and reasoned world.
Marty Klein┬áhas ten lessons that humanists need to learn about sex. ItÔÇÖs quick, not so dirty and not at all predictable.┬áTalk about sex education!
David Sloan Wilson┬ásits down with Cornell economist Robert Frank to discuss his latest book┬áThe Darwin Economy. Is it possible to compress 100 years down into 10? How does Monopoly money factor in to all of this?
US Public Policy Update ÔÇô Edwina Rogers (also upcoming Letter Campaigns)
Latin America Update
SPI is seeking UN Special Consultative Status. Edwina will be representative in NY and Hugo in Geneva. We are looking to build coalitions and join networks. SPI will seek UNESCO consultative NGO status. Then we have the EU, there, they have an office which would be more than appropriate for us to lobby, which is the European Commission for Fundamental Rights.
Our fellows from the Italian Union of Atheists Rationalists, Agnostics and Freethinkers ( UAAR.it ) to which Hugo belongs and who publish news from USmatters and internationally as well (they are members of the European Humanist Federation) have office space in the city (Circolo UAAR di Pisa). SPI will share the office thanks to Hugo.
Our fellows from the Italian Union of Atheists Rationalists, Agnostics and Freethinkers (UAAR.it) ┬áto which Hugo belongs and who publish news from US matters and internationally as well (they are members of the European Humanist Federation) have office space in the city (Circolo UAAR di Pisa). ┬áSPI will share the office thanks to Hugo.
We are asking the White House to repeal the Office of Legal Counsel’s (OLC) memo that interprets Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) as a blanket override of statutory nondiscrimination provisions.┬á Such an interpretation is, in our opinion, erroneous and injurious to free exercise of civil and religious rights, which RFRA was in fact intended to protect.
The National Congress of Argentina just struck a blow to Secular Education in South America by passing a law that eliminates Education Law 1420, that created secular education. Please join the SPI and other coalition members on a letter urging President Cristina Fern├índez de Kirchner to veto this act and serve as a steward to protect secular education.
In light of the recent US Supreme Court ruling granting universal gender-neutral marriage in all 50 states and now over 21 countries with legalized gender-neutral marriage, it is time to request the UN High Commission on Human Rights to make this matter a global priority.
Requesting pardons for nine people recently sentenced to death by a Sharia court. Numerous SPI Fellows and Advisors have assisted in writing this letter and in reaching out to top officials in Nigeria. We were assured over the weekend by the top intelligence officer that the nine individuals are currently under the protection of the Nigerian federal government, for now.
For those of us in the US, we might remember pledging allegiance to the flag every day — and some of us still do! But did you know that when new US citizens are naturalized, they are forced to acknowledge a god they might not worship? The US has and continues to receive future citizens from around the world. Please join us in signing a letter requesting that these people do not have to recite the Pledge with the words “under God” included.
NGOs in Uganda are facing trouble as a new bill about to be passed in Parliament will make virtually all NGO decisions fall under the oversight of a government agent,┬ápotentially preventing or stopping humanist and freethought groups from operating.