Bangla author pleads to return home

DHAKAK: Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen has petitioned Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to be allowed to return home 15 years after fleeing death threats by Islamic militants, a report said on Wednesday. “I wrote a personal letter to Sheikh Hasina requesting her to allow me entry.

I do not know whether my

sincere plea would yield any result,” she told the Bangladeshi weekly Blitz.

Nasreen fled Bangladesh in 1994 to live in exile after extremist Muslims made death threats over her novel Lajja (Shame), which depicts the life of a Hindu family persecuted in the Muslim-majority country.

The 45-year-old gynaecologist-turned-author has since lived a peripatetic life, holding Swedish citizenship, and last year took up residence in Paris.

As well as being threatened by militants, Nasreen had also faced a government lawsuit on charges of making blasphemous remarks against the Koran.

Although the Bangladeshi authorities have denied the existence of any official ban on her return, Nasreen’s attempts to have her passport renewed have been repeatedly blocked.

Her plea to return follows the landslide election victory of Hasina’s secular Awami League in December last year. The new government has pledged to crack down on Islamic militancy.

“As there is no true secular political party in the country, it is the only party we have pinned our hopes on. There is no alternative,” Nasreen said.

“I hope I would be able to return to my country during Hasina’s term. If I can’t go back now, I am afraid whether I will ever be able to in future. I hope good sense would prevail.” There was no immediate comment from the government.

Nasreen was forced to leave her adopted home Kolkata in November 2007 after receiving fresh death threats from radical Indian Muslims.

After several months in hiding under Indian government protection, Nasreen fled to Sweden in March last year, where she was offered a two-year safe haven in the town of Uppsala, including a monthly allowance and an apartment.

The author said she pined for her own country. “I have been living in exile for 15 years. They are punishing me for crimes the Muslim fanatics committed against me. I have been to almost all Bangladesh embassies in the West to get my passport renewed,” Nasreen said.

“I was born in Bangladesh. As a citizen it is my legal right to be able to live in Bangladesh. They have never given me any reason for imposing the ban,” she added.