In 1994 PHR-UK was involved in supporting the humanist author Dr Taslima Nasreen. There was considerable concern about her safety after the Bangladeshi authorities issued an arrest warrant in June, forcing her to live underground. They had accused Nasreen's books -- especially Laija ("Shame"), a 1993 novel on the tribulations of a Hindu family in Bangladesh -- of being "blasphemous" against the Muslim faith,
By 1993 Taslima Nasreen had already written 15 books before Laja became a best-seller with 60 000 copies sold in a few months. On September 24, a junta of soldiers of Islam launched a fatwa against her, condemning her to death for blasphemy. A bounty of US$ 1,250 was placed on her head.
In June 1994, after Taslima declared that a new revised reading of the Qur'an should be performed and the need to change the whole set of Islamic laws, a second death fatwa was launched against her with 100,000 takas promised for the person that kills ‘the apostate’. The Bangladeshi government initially provided her with police protection but as the demonstrations mounted and religious elements threatened to topple the government, the ruling authorities issued a warrant for her arrest, on charges of "deliberately and maliciously outraging the religious feelings of Muslims" under article 295a of the penal code. Nasreen went into hiding.
A determined campaign led to her finally being given adequate protection to appear before the High Court in Dhaka. She was granted unconditional bail and, once her passport was reinstated, she was allowed to leave the country. She came to London and later made her way to Stockholm on a tourist visa, where the Swedish Center of International PEN had invited her to stay. PHR-UK maintained contact with her in Bangladeth and London.
Taslima Nasreen has been living in exile since, only once returning to Bangladesh in 1998, without government permission, when her Mother was ill. Again, fundamentalists demanded she be killed and she was forced to leave.
In 2004 Taslima Nasrin was awarded the 2004 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the promotion of tolerance and non-violence. The Prize was attributed on the recommendation of an international jury, presided by Andrés Pastrana Arango, former President of Colombia, and endorsed by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. She has now published more than 20 books in Bengali, some of which have been translated into more than 20 languages. She has won several distinctions, including the Indian literary award Ananda Puroshkar; the European Parliaments’ Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and the Kurt Tucholsky Award from Swedish PEN.