15 February, 2017
Tuhin Das is a writer, activist and poet. In a quiet, melodious voice, he shares a part of a poem.
"I don't know how I can express myself, as feelings become obtuse from fear. Soldiers of darkness caught me like an animal and butchered me in dreams. You know the feelings of dreaming are like reality. It is midnight in my Bangladesh."
Tuhin Das is from Bangladesh. But he lives now in exile. Forced to leave his home in April 2016, Tuhin Das sought refuge at City of Asylum Pittsburgh, a sanctuary for endangered writers.
"I left my country in an extreme situation and I came here not for only security; I came here for freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of writing and freedom for living a certain way."
Born and raised in Barisal, Bangladesh, Tuhin Das loved to read poems. Tuhin began writing his own poems when he was in seventh grade. Some of his works were featured in a local children's magazine.
"Basically, I write poetry because that is my voice, my soul voice. I wrote a few rhymes, like children('s) poetry. They were published in children's magazines."
Tuhin Das says he continued with poetry but also started writing other things, like short stories. However, he says in the 1980s things changed in his country. A military dictator took control and established Islamic rule.
Tuhin Das says he began to write more serious articles as a witness to the rise of fundamentalism.
"When I started writing articles, basically our community in Bangladesh was ninety-four percent Muslims and they did not think [writing] is good because some feelings hurt them. I wrote against war crimes, some war criminals in our country, and they are still in our country and they are doing their job. They were never condemned, so for that, we wrote against them."
However, freedom of expression came at a cost for Tuhin Das.
"Right now there are local collaborators of 1971, and right now in our country there are a lot of their supporters. So, when we wrote against them and the supporters, sometimes online, they personally threatened us."
To save his own life, Tuhin Das left Bangladesh.
Since 2013, Das has been the target of fundamentalist groups who have murdered freethinking bloggers, writers and editors. In Bangladesh, writers are being persecuted under the country's Information and Technology Communication Law. Instead of protecting Tuhin, the police collected and searched his writings for anti-Islamic statements to use against him.
City of Asylum Pittsburgh has given exiled writer Tuhin Das a refuge.
"I think a lot of bad things have happened in our country and already 16 writers are murdered by the extremists so, right now, I am feeling safe here. I am writing freely. Right now, I am writing a novel about (the) social structure of my country, basically the Islamization of my country."
Tuhin Das appreciates the community support he is receiving. He joined the Greater Pittsburgh Literary Society where he is learning the English language and about American culture.
His work has continued to appear in Bangladesh. In his native language, Bengali, Das has authored seven poetry books. He has served as editor of several literary magazines, written short stories and published columns in his home country. He says his proudest accomplishment is the founding of a popular magazine called, ‘The Wild.'
However, Tuhin Das says he misses his Bangladeshi home and hopes one day to return there.
"I love my country and also my family, my parents and my nephew and my sisters and a lot of friends. I think the situation of my country will be good and I will come back to my country. I hope that."
I'm Marsha James.
Marsha James wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
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Next time on People in America, meet Peter Ripken, Board Chair of International Cities Of Refuge (ICORN)
Words In This Story
melodious – adj. having a pleasing sound
sanctuary – n. a place where someone is protected or given shelter
fundamentalism – n. a form of religion especially Islam or Protestant, Christianity that upholds strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles
collaborator – n. a person who works with another person or group in order to achieve or do something
blogger – n. someone who writes about personal opinions, activities and experiences
persecuted – v. to treat someone cruelly or unfairly especially because of race or religious or political beliefs
appreciate – v. to be grateful for something
literary – adj. having a lot of knowledge about literature: known for reading or writing books
authored – v. to be the person of something, such as a book
column – n. an article in a newspaper or magazine that appears regularly and that is written by a particular writer or deals with a particular subject
accomplishment – n. something done, achieved successfully