We have previously discussed the violence and discrimination faced by girls and women in some Muslim countries. Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 19, is the latest such victim after she was burned to death. Her offense was reporting a sexual assault by Headmaster Siraj Ud Doula at her Islamic school, or madrassa. Sixteen people are accused of engaging in the conspiracy to murder this girl in Bangladesh.
Headmaster Siraj Ud Doula allegedly order the murder after Rafi refused to withdraw her criminal complaint that Doula groped her in his office — causing her to flee to safety.
On April 6th, Rafi was taking her final exams when she was lured to the roof of the school. She was then attacked by a group wearing burkas and doused with fuel and set on fire in an attempt to fake a suicide. Adding to this tragedy is that a fellow female student lured Rafi up to the roof by telling her that one of her friends was being beaten up. She was allegedly told that one of her friends was being beaten up. So a fellow female student helped murder a girl who merely reported her assault and brought her into the trap by using Safi’s concern for another student in trouble. She was then presented with a blank piece of paper to sign. Rafi stood her ground and refused to recant the charge. She was then drenched in kerosene and burned.
She survived with burns over 80% of her body just long enough to give a statement to police. She knew that she was dying in the ambulance and used her brother’s cellphone to record the names and facts of the attack.
This disgusting crime is not unique but one welcomed difference is that police in Feni has formally brought murder charges, including charges against both the headmaster and students for the Madrassa. Two local politicians from the governing Awami League party were also charged. There is also a charge by a policeman who videotaped Rafi’s original statement at the police station. He can be heard telling her to take her hands from her face and that the charges were “no big deal.” He is charge with illegally recording the victim and then sharing the tape online.
The fact that so many people could be convinced to commit such an act of total depravity is chilling. However, the bravery of Rafi was simply incredible, refusing to yield in the face of a threat to be burned alive. She is another face of courage among girls and women fighting for equal rights in these countries. However, the cost again is staggering.