After Grisly Murders, Bangladesh LGBT Community Is Terrified: “There Is No Movement, No Visibility”

“The whole community has been sent back to the closet."

Seven months after anti-LGBT militants brutally murdered Bangaldesh’s most prominent gay rights activist, the country’s LGBT community remains in hiding, with many of its leaders fleeing the country.

KOLKATA, WEST BENGAL, INDIA - 2016/06/18: LGBT activist organized a candle light vigil protesting against the recent violence against LGBT community, especially they protest against the Orlando incident and brutal murder of Xulhaz and Tonoy in Dhaka. Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Tonoy gay right activist was brutally murder in Dhaka on April 25 this year. (Photo by Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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“The whole community has been sent back to the closet,” a gay activist in exile confided to the Thomas Reuters Foundation outside of a recent international LGBTQ conference in Bangkok.

“Any kind of work-whatever we had been doing-it has been completely shut down,” he continued. “There is no movement, no visibility, no work. It is a horrible situation. We have never imagined the situation would be like this.”

Xulhaz Mannan

Though Bangladesh’s LGBT community has long been marginalized—with gay sex punishable by life imprisonment—in 2014, a surge of visibility occurred with the launch of the country’s first LGBT publication, Roopbaan.

The magazine received a lot of attention on social media, with many condemning the magazine’s founder Xulhaz Mannan (above) with homophobic slurs and death threats. This hate eventually climaxed in the April 25 murder of Mannan and out actor Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy at the activist’s home.

A regional branch of al-Qaeda took responsibility for the violent crime and Bangladesh’s LGBT community quickly dissipated.

An activist's silhouette is seen through a rainbow flag during  a Gay Parade in Kiev on May 25, 2013. Around a hundred gay rights activists marched in Ukraine on Saturday despite fears of violence and a court ban, marking the first gay pride event in the ex-Soviet country, where homophobia is widespread and generally accepted. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY        (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Sergei Supinsky, Getty Images

“We had been very visible [for the] past two years. A huge number of young people came up and volunteered for our work,” the anonymous activist explained. “After this one incident…the whole community collapsed.”

“This one incident broke the sense of security. More than 15 people left the country. More than 10 want to leave. People in Bangladesh don’t want to talk to us. The whole community is so scattered and scared.”

He went on to say that while those organizers who have fled the country are seeking to reunite to assess the situation, those left in Bangladesh are not yet ready to meet en masse.

“People talk about [anti-LGBT violence in] many other countries, but Bangladesh never comes up,” he remarked. “What happened is brutal-they martyred the whole movement. I feel sad, but I also feel furious, more determined. We have to do something to challenge this brutality.”

For more on international LGBT issues, visit Logo’s Global Ally site.

h/t: NBC News

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