Raad Rahman, a Bangladeshi freelance journalist, novelist and human rights activist, will stay in Ithaca for a month as a writer-in-residence with Ithaca City of Asylum, an organization that provides sanctuary for repressed writers, according to the Cornell Chronicle, which is run by The University.
Rahman told The Sun that Ithaca caught her interest because of its vibrant environment as a college town and said that she “likes being surrounded by students and intellectuals for the next generation.”
During her time in town, in addition to writing, Rahman will address the South Asia program at Cornell in a seminar titled, “Sex, Blasphemy and Terrorism: Bangladesh’s Systematic Repression of its LGBTQ Communities” on April 23. She will also give speeches at the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival’s literary showcase and hold public readings of her work.
Rahman, who graduated from Bard College with a degree in anthropology and literature in 2006, has been active in human rights advocacy and journalism.
She recalled receiving a number of death threats when writing about the first and only LGBT magazine Roopbaan in Bangladesh, where her fellow journalist and founder of the magazine, Xulhaz Mannan, was murdered for defending gay rights.
“I never thought I would be speaking for the LGBTQ community or on their behalf in any shape or form,” Rahman told The Sun. “[Until] I realized after Xulhaz’s murder that nobody was speaking about them.”
Rahman traced her spirit of activism back to college, where she served as board member of the international student organization and student judiciary board, which became the “setup” for her future career.
“I remember being awed by the fact that people wanted to hear from me,” she said, describing college life as a time when she shifted from “shy” to active in raising her voice.
Rahman’s writings have been published by news outlets and organizations such as The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Baffler, Guernica, VICE and UNICEF. Her works span across a number of countries including the United Kingdom, India, Jamaica, Hungary and the United States.
Having handled a myriad of positions like legal assistant, fundraiser, journalist and communication specialist, Rahman encouraged students to think outside of the box and try “random things” that could ultimately help to stimulate changes in the world.
“First learn all the rules, and then break all of them,” Rahman said. “And don’t be a private individual. The world needs everyone’s voice.”