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12

JUNE 2016

|

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

USAID Employee and

Human Rights Activist

Murdered in Dhaka

F

or eight years, Xulhaz Mannan

worked as a protocol specialist at the

U.S. embassy in Dhaka, where he founded the embassy’s diversity committee. Last

September he joined USAID’s Democ-

racy and Governance Office as a project

management assistant.

On April 25, he was brutally murdered

in his Dhaka apartment, along with his

friend, activist and actor Tanay Mojumdar.

“Today, USAID lost one of our own,”

USAID Administrator Gayle E. Smith

stated. “We condemn this cruel and inhu-

mane act of violence and add our voices

to all those calling to bring his cowardly

attackers to justice.”

The United States offered to aid the

Bangladesh government in their search

for Mannan’s killers.

According to

the Dhaka Tribune ,

up to

six young men entered Mannan’s apart-

ment building, claiming to be mail carri-

ers. They mentioned Mannan by name,

saying he was expecting a delivery, before

entering his apartment and hacking the

two men to death.

Al-Qaeda’s Bangladeshi branch, Ansar

al-Islam, has claimed responsibility for

the murders.

In addition to his work at the embassy,

Mannan was the editor of

Roopbaan

Bangladesh’s

first LGBTI magazine,

which

debuted in 2014—and was a well-known

human rights activist.

Roopbaan

, named for a Bengali folk

character who represents the power of

love, has

received support

from foreign

embassies in the past. Its messages of

inclusion have been contentious in Ban-

gladesh, where homosexuality is a highly

sensitive topic, and still technically illegal.

Mojumdar, who also worked on the

publication, had just entered law school

TALKING POINTS

in the hope of becoming a legal defender

of LGBT rights in his home country.

In a statement following Mannan’s

death, Administrator Smith underscored

his work in broadening and deepening

political understanding throughout Ban-

gladesh, as well as his devotion to build-

ing an open and welcoming workplace.

“Xulhaz was more than a colleague to

those of us fortunate to work with him at

the U.S. embassy,” said U.S. Ambassador

Marcia Bernicat. “He was a dear friend.”

The murders follow a string of Islamist

attacks on secular academics and repre-

sentatives of religious and social minorities

in Bangladesh. Days earlier, university

professor Rezaul Karim Siddique

was

murdered in a similar fashion by members

of the so-called Islamic State group.

In early April

, a law student, Nazimud-

din Samad, was hacked to death in Dhaka

after writing about his secular views online.

During the past three years,

20 people

have

beenmurdered in similar attacks.

Xulhaz Mannan is survived by his

mother, brother and sister, and will be

sadly missed by many friends, colleagues

and the LGBTI community in Bangladesh

and around the world.

—Shannon Mizzi, Editorial Assistant,

and Gemma Dvorak, Associate Editor

U.S. Special Envoy for

the Human Rights of

LGBTI Persons Marks

One Year on the Job

O

n April 13, Randy Berry, the State

Department’s first special envoy

for the human rights of LGBTI persons,

completed one year on the job. A career

Foreign Service officer, Special Envoy

Berry has previously served in New Zea-

land, Bangladesh, Nepal, Uganda, Egypt

and South Africa.

During the past year he has traveled to more than 42 countries and seen progress

being made through a generally increased

level of dialogue on LGBTI issues, both

with and without U.S. involvement.

“We are witnessing global move-

ment, truly. There are going to be some

places that lag or even move backward,

but I don’t think that should rob us from

understanding what the overall picture is,

and that is one of global progress,” he told

the

Bay Area Reporter

recently.

In an interviewwith the Washington Blade , Mr. Berry noted some prominent

legislative successes in Nepal, Vietnam,

Botswana, Argentina andMozambique.

However, same-sex sexual relations are still criminalized inmore than 70 countries.

Berry identifies Malta as the nation

with the best gender identity laws, and

commended Uruguay, Chile, Argentina,

Colombia and Brazil for their advocacy

on behalf of LGBT rights at the United

Nations. Trouble spots include Russia,

Uganda and Jamaica.

Berry, who is well aware that the

United States isn’t perfect when it comes to protecting LGBTI rights, highlights the need to be in touch with local activists

and advocates, people who understand

their own nation’s political and social

climate and can determine the best way

forward for achieving equal rights. Diplo-

mats can then decide how to best support

SCARLETAMARE

Xulhaz Mannan.