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The women who fight for freedom of thought
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Taslima Nasreen - Bangladesh author


© Sipa
Taslima Nasreen, author, born 25th August 1962 in Bangladesh.

Background: Officially, Bangladesh isn't a fundamentalist country, it's a democracy. The official religion is Islam and the law follows the Koran's dictates. Although fundamentalists are a minority, they are important allies of the government.

This results in family law being based on religion and the absence of male/female equality. Acid attacks and stoning are common practice against women who have "dishonored" their family or their man. Fatwas are very common for women who don't follow Islamic principles.

What she fights for: Denouncing the oppression of women and non-Islamic minorities, campaigning for gender equality and the emancipation of women.

Her weapon: Writing.
At the age of 24, Taslima Nasreen published her first collection of poems, followed 7 years later by her breakthrough novel Lajja (Shame), in which she denounced the pressures that the Hindu community suffers in her country.

The book wasn't well received by the Bangladeshi government, especially as she declared that the Koran was outdated. In 1994, she was forced into exile and received death threats from fundamentalists. This wasn't enough, however, to stop her living by her militant pen in Europe, from where she wrote several novels and progressive poems.

Downsides: It has been impossible for Taslima Nasreen to return to her country ever since being deported in 1994. Two fatwas have been declared against her and her books have been burnt.  In 2007, a bounty was offered for her head by an Indian Islamist group. Thesedays, the poet-novelist lives as a recluse but she continues her fight.

Recognition: She's had plenty!
The Ananda Literary Award from Calcutta for the release of Lajja; the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought; the French Republic's Human Rights Prize; and in 2008, she received the Simone de Beauvoir Prize in France for her work in defending women's rights.

Where to read more: On her official website And also, in a UNESCO speech from 1999, where Taslima describes her fight for human rights.


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