16 convicted in Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s Murder in Bangladesh
The case of murder of a student has been solved by a southern court in Bangladesh after the case was fast-tracked, lasting the hearing for 62 days. Recently, Bangladesh has pronounced a death sentence to 16 people over the murder of a student. The case of murder as set out in Bangladesh involves setting on fire of a student after she decided to press charges against a teacher at an Islamic school of sexual assault. At the time of the murder, Nusrat was a student of the Sonagazi Senior Fazil Madrasa. The pronouncement came by a special women and children’s tribunal in Southern Bangladesh. The victim of the said unfortunate incident is a 19-year girl, Nusrat Jahan Rafi who was brutally murdered in April this year. After the said pronouncement, it was reported by local media, that anticipating reprisals police security forces were deployed in and around Rafi’s home, ensuring the safety of their family members.
Verdict of the Bangladesh court is celebrated, ‘happy to see justice served’, says brother.
As per the reports, the cause of her death is the severe burn wounds. It has been reported that she was saturated in kerosene oil and set on a blazing fire. The reason behind the gruesome act is her refusal to withdraw a sexual harassment complaint against the principal of the school where she read. Appearing on behalf of the prosecutor was Hafiz Ahmed, who is celebrating the verdict of the court. In his statement, he has iterated that the judgment of the southern Bangladesh court has proved that ‘no one could get away with murder in Bangladesh. He remarked and said that it is can achievement for the judiciary. The brother of the deceased-victim has also shown support in favour of the verdict. He has said that he was ‘happy to see justice served in the killing case of her sister’. He also remarked that all the convicts took part in concluding the gruesome murder and consequently they will have to face the legal repercussions.
Among the 16 who have been sentenced to death in this instant case, is the headteacher Siraj Ud Doula at the Sonagazi Islamia and the victim’s senior Fazil Madrasa. While 12 of the convicts has confessed the crime, as per the prosecutors, the headteacher Ud Doula denied his involvement in the said killing. Appearing for Doula is advocate Mahfuzul Haque who has made a statement that they will appeal the said pronouncement of conviction against him. He said that the unfavourable pronouncement is the result of evidence not being properly scrutinised.
A day before the pronouncement, the family of the victim was hopeful of getting justice. Her father, AKM Musa Manik, made a statement to the press saying the same. He said,
“The whole country has seen what happened to my daughter, Nusrat. She was an innocent girl nineteen-year-old girl and was brutally murdered for her strong stance against a wrongdoing.”
The Background: A Sexual Harassment Complaint leading to Murder of a teenage girl.
The victim, Rafi, had filed a case of sexual harassment against Doula in March this year. As per the facts narrated by her, she said that she was called to Doula’s office and there he touched her inappropriately. The said complaint led to the arrest of the accused-teacher, as named by Rafi in her complaint. Moreover, it also came in news that in her first attempt to report the case of sexual harassment, in a leaked video it has been shown that a police chief was remarking that ‘it is not a big deal’ while registering her complaint.
It is believed, as also said by the police, that the murder of Rafi was ordered and coordinated by Doula himself from prison. The lead investigator in the case Senior Police Superintendent Mohammad Iqbal said that the teacher who was in custody had directed his accomplice to put pressure on the nineteen-year-old to withdraw the case or to kill her if she refuses to do so
With Doula’s plan the ruling Awami League Party politicians, Maksud Alam and Ruhul Amin were helping to be complicit along with other students at the Islamic school.
The timeline of events that followed on the day of the attack on Rafi leading to her death was that she was at school for an exam. That day, a friend named Poppy lured to the roof of the school building. On arriving at the said location, her hands and feet were bound with a scarf, kerosene was put on her, and she was set on fire. The original plan of those involved in the gruesome attack was to pass it off as suicide. However, Rafi showed courage and managed to run down the stairs as the flamed burned her scarf, binding her limbs. After being spotted by others at the school in the condition, she was immediately taken to the nearest hospital in an ambulance. On her way to the hospital in the ambulance, Rafi managed to get out a video statement in which she identified her attackers and also said as:
“The teacher had touched me. I will fight this crime until my last breath.”
Rafi suffered 80% body burns, survived for five days.
At the hospital, the reports said that she was suffering from 80 per cent of her body burned. She managed to survive for five days in the hospital and subsequently died. Her death sparked massive uproar among the citizens of Bangladesh. The activists in the country protested the untoward incident and said that it exposes ‘a culture of impunity to offenders, surrounding sex crimes against women and children’. They said that it is a fact in the country that those who report such incidents of harassment have to suffer a backlash, like Rafi.
The matter escalated to an extent where the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina took cognisance of the matter and promised ‘speedy action in the case’. Moreover, another welcoming move, in this case, was that post the unfortunate murder of the nineteen-year-old victim in the said case, 27,000 schools in Bangladesh ordered to set up committees preventing sexual violence.
The conviction is celebrated, death penalty is not.
After the pronouncement of the verdict, convicting 16 accused to a death sentence, it is coming to be seen as a ‘landmark verdict’. General Secretary of Bangladesh, Maleka Banu has celebrated the said judgment. She has commented, the unfortunate incident shook the conscience of the citizens of the country. It was said that ‘it is not just about murder’, the reason was her quest for justice in a sexual harassment allegation, which resulted in the gruesome killing. The verdict is a signal for the people in Bangladesh to know that one cannot get away with committing serious offences like sexual harassment and murder. The prosecution of the suspects was celebrated world-wide. Human Rights Watch, a leading international human rights organisation, has stated that they welcome the prosecution; however, they are strictly against awarding of the death penalty to the suspects. In a statement from the organisation’s South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly, it was said that
“The brutality with which this young woman was murdered to silence her for daring to complain of sexual abuse had outraged many Bangladeshis. Human Rights Watch does not support the capital punishment because of its inherent cruelty, but we welcome the fact that the authorities prosecuted the perpetrators,”
She also said that the death of Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s death is an indication towards the need for the Bangladesh government to take survivors of sexual assault seriously. Moreover, also to make sure that the victims of sexual assault ‘can safely seek a legal remedy’ and be protected from such gruesome incidents of retaliation.