Bangladesh author flees to Sweden

THE controversial Bangladeshi writer, Taslima Nasrin, whose feminist attacks on hidebound Islamic society caused Muslim fundamentalists to put a price on her head, is in hiding in Sweden after slipping out of her country.

From Stockholm, where she arrived yesterday, Ms Nasrin issued a statement saying she had come to Sweden to 'rest and work', and expressing 'heartfelt gratitude' to her supporters. She gave no hint how long she would remain in the country, or whether she intended returning to Bangladesh to face charges of inflaming religious sentiments. 'She is exhausted, and does not plan to make any public appearances for the time being,' Gabriel Gleichmann, head of the Swedish branch of the international Pen organisation, told the Independent. Swedish Pen had invited Ms Nasrin last spring.

Few details have emerged of how Ms Nasrin, a 32-year-old doctor turned writer, managed to escape Islamic radicals who had vowed to prevent her leaving Bangladesh. She is reported to have flown from Dhaka to Bangkok, before going on to Stockholm. A spokesman for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry denied reports in Bangladesh that Oslo had issued a passport for Ms Nasrin, and that she had been accompanied by Norwegian diplomats, but he confirmed that she had been given a tourist visa to visit Norway, where she has been invited to address a writers' conference next month.

The Swedish Foreign Minister, Margaretha af Ugglas, who welcomed Ms Nasrin on her arrival yesterday, said she was also in Sweden on a tourist visa.

''It is not a question of political asylum,' said Ms af Ugglas. 'She has invitations from many other countries. We will see what she decides.' Norway has said it will consider offering her asylum.

The writer, already controversial in Bangladesh for her accusations that male conservatives used Islam to subjugate women, became the target of outrage with the publication last year of her novel Lajja (Shame), which attacks Muslim intolerance of Bangladesh's Hindu minority. It was banned after fundamentalist leaders called mass demonstrations and offered rewards for Ms Nasrin's death, but the campaign against her was revived by an Indian newspaper interview earlier this year which quoted her as saying the Koran should be revised.

Despite denials by Ms Nasrin, fundamentalists used her as a rallying-point to demand a law against blasphemy, punishable by death. Liberals who saw this as part of a wider campaign for a repressive Islamic state accused the government of yielding to bigotry when it charged her under a colonial-era law with offending religious feelings. She went into hiding on 4 June, when a Dhaka court ordered her arrest to answer the charge, and did not emerge until last week, when the court granted her bail.

The Bangladeshi authorities, caught between fundamentalist anger at home and international concern over the threats to Ms Nasrin, were clearly relieved yesterday. 'She was free to go anywhere she liked, and that's what she did,' said the Home Secretary, Azimuddin Ahmed. 'We are greatly relieved if she has really gone,' a foreign ministry official said. 'We had enough of it.'

In theory the writer could be sentenced to two years' hard labour, but no date has been set for her trial, and her lawyers are authorised to represent her at interim hearings. 'They simply want to kick the whole thing into touch,' said a diplomat.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor