March 17, 2018
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Gay man who fled homophobia in Bangladesh stuck in limbo in Nepal

Kathmandu, Oct 2 (efe-epa).- Mahamood Rakibul Hasan has spent the last 17 months hiding away from Nepalese authorities, fearful of being deported back to Bangladesh, his home country, from where he had fled in April last year after Islamists had threatened to kill him for being gay.

Hasan, also known as Rakib, has been living illegally in Nepal while waiting to hear from the Canadian government over his asylum request.

"There was no stopping the killing of freethinkers, atheist writers and intellectuals by the Islamic fundamental groups and the state authority was a mere spectator. LGBTI activists were targeted claiming homosexuality was against Islam," Rakib told EFE.

Rakib was among the many who were on the hit list of Islamist extremists who in 2013 started attacking intellectuals, religious minorities, homosexuals and foreigners in Bangladesh.

So far more than 70 people have been killed, including those who were killed at a Dhaka restaurant in July 2016.

On April 1, 2016 - on the eve of the Rainbow pride parade - Rakib and other members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) group got death threats, leading to the cancelation of the event.

Many people who were working with Rakib in an LGBT publication also went into hiding.

Five days after Rakib left Bangladesh, Xulhaz Mannan, editor of the Mahbub Joney magazine, was hacked to death.

"I would have been the next target if I was there," Rakib said.

Rakib's story, however, is not unusual; it is the story of almost every homosexual youth in Bangladesh, a Muslim majority country, where homosexuality is frowned upon.

Rakib was born in southern Bangladesh and led a normal life until he started exhibiting signs of being different, for e.g. preferring dolls over football.

His father, a teacher and a local politician, took him first to a psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with depression, and then to a witch doctor, who confined him in a dark room filled with smoke from cow horns to rid him of evil spirits.

"It was such a torture that on the third day I pretended everything was fine just to escape from the place," Rakib said.

However, his parents were not ready to accept his sexual orientation as they considered it un-Islamic, and after he finished school in 2009, gave him an ultimatum to either get married or leave home.

Rakib chose to leave and over time emerged as a strong leader of the Bangladeshi LGBT community.

But now, even after months of hardships in Nepal - without a visa and no work - he is loathe to go back to Bangladesh.

"Our organization has no fund to help him financially. We have been providing support individually," Prashu Ram Rai, a gay rights activist and program director at Blue Diamond Society - an organization that works for sexual minorities - told EFE.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has given Rakib refugee status and recommended his acceptance into a third country.

Rakib might be uncertain of the immediate future, of whether Canada will grant him refuge, but he is certain of what he wants to do with his life once this tumultuous period is over.

"After completing my studies, I will dedicate my entire live advocating for the rights of people from the LGBTI community. If the situation in Bangladesh improves, I would like to return someday to continue the work I was doing," he said.

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