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Growing concerns for the health and safety of controversial feminist Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin in Delhi

(WiPC/IFEX) - International PEN's Writers in Prison Committee is increasingly concerned for the safety and well-being of Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, who has been under government protection in a safe house in Delhi since 21 November 2007. Her health is said to be rapidly deteriorating and there are concerns about her treatment in confinement and reported lack of full access to medical care. PEN is alarmed at reports of Nasrin's deteriorating health, and demands that she be given full access to all medical care as a matter of urgency.

A controversial feminist, writer, novelist, poet and journalist, Nasrin was placed under protection in a safe house in Delhi on 21 November 2007 following violent protests in her home town of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), West Bengal, by activists who accuse her of "offending Muslim sentiments" in her writings. PEN is alarmed at Nasrin's account of her deteriorating health and lack of access to medical care since her confinement in Delhi. In an e-mail sent to her supporters, Nasrin reports that, as a result of the stress caused by her confinement, she is suffering from high blood pressure, and has developed heart disease and other associated health problems. She is concerned that her health problems could lead to major organ failure and blindness if left untreated. She also says she had to be rushed to a hospital in Delhi last month after her blood pressure dropped dramatically following inappropriate medication. She is reportedly planning to leave India as a result of government pressure.

Nasrin is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning writer. She was publicly condemned to death in Bangladesh for "blasphemy" and a reward given for her execution on 16 September 1993 by members of an armed militant Muslim group, due to her novel "Lajja" (Shame). Instead of condemning the calls for Nasrin's murder, the Bangladesh authorities charged Nasrin, on 4 June 1994, with having a "deliberate and malicious intention of hurting the religious sentiments", for an interview given to an Indian newspaper. Nasrin fled to Europe on 10 August 1994 and was subsequently given asylum in Sweden. More than 10 years since she fled Bangladesh, Nasrin still cannot return to her homeland without fear for her security. She has for the past three years lived in Kolkata, West Bengal, and has applied for Indian citizenship. Her current visa was recently renewed for another six months.

Whilst her writings are undoubtedly controversial, she is an active supporter of human rights, and according to the Indian constitution should have the right to express her views freely and without fear of attack.

International PEN welcomes the efforts by the Indian authorities to provide Nasrin protection, but is seriously concerned that the protesters have acted with apparent impunity. PEN urges the Indian authorities to publicly condemn the violence and death threats against Nasrin. It further urges the Indian authorities in the strongest possible terms to uphold their constitution and the international treaties to which they are a signatory by ensuring her safe passage and return to her home in Kolkata at the earliest opportunity.

For more information on Taslima Nasrin click on the following links:

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