More than 100,000 students took to the streets in Bangladesh on Monday to protest the rise of Islamist extremism in the South Asian country, according to Association Press.
Protesters linked arms and formed human chains in the capital Dhaka and in other major cities. They carried banners saying "Bangladesh stands against terrorism" and "We want peace; no place for terrorism."
One of the organizers, former lawmaker Tanvir Shakil Joy, told reporters, “We stand against any sort of extreme form of ideology. We denounce terrorism.”
Joy added, “I feel encouraged to see that so many students, both male and female, have joined the protest today.”
Terrorist attacks by Islamist groups have hit Bangladesh several times this year, most recently in the attack on the Holey Bakery in the Dhaka in which 20 hostages and two police officers were killed, along with six terrorists.
In addition to large scale terrorist attacks, Islamist extremists have carried out a series of targeted murders of prominent anti-Islamists, secularists and members of minority groups.
In April, two prominent gay activists, a law student, a university professor and a Hindu tailor were murdered by Islamist extremists. In May, a Buddhist monk had his throat slit. In June, the wife of a prominent anti-Islamist police chief was murdered while taking her son to school. In July, three members of the syncretic Baul religious sect were critically injured after being set upon with machetes.
Last year secularist writers and activists were murdered by an Islamist extremist group working its way through a hit list. Those murdered included Niloy Neel, Dr. Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman and Ananta Bijoy Das.
Clarion Project previously interviewed Bangladeshi blogger Monir Hussein, who is currently believed to have escaped Bangladesh. He spoke about the fears and difficulties he faced living on the run.
Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, gained its independence from Pakistan in a brutal civil war in which the Pakistani army and associated militia groups are alleged to have committed genocide. Senior leaders of the Islamist militia groups affiliated with Pakistan were later arrested and tried for war crimes by the government of Bangladesh.
Abdul Quader Mollah, a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami group who earned the cognomen "the Butcher of Mirpur" for his part in the war, was hanged in 2014, following a lengthy campaign by the government against Jamaat e-Islami.
The scale of this week's protest show that large numbers of people in Bangladesh are willing to fight for their secular constitution against the extremists and will back the government in taking much stronger action against terrorism than it has done so far.
Watch footage of the protest: