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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee