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Nusrat Jahan Rafi (family photo)
Nusrat Jahan Rafi (family photo)

'Till my last breath'

Worldwide outrage over Bangladeshi teen burned to death after reporting sexual harassment

By WITW Staff on April 19, 2019

A Bangladeshi teenager was soaked in kerosene and burned to death less than two weeks after filing a sexual harassment claim against the headmaster of her school.

Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 19, attended an Islamic school in a small, conservative town about 100 miles outside of Dhaka. On March 27, she said, the school headmaster called her into his office and touched her inappropriately. She filed a report with the local police, where an officer filmed her with his phone as she made her statement while visibly shaken and hiding her face in her hands.

That same day, the headmaster was arrested. But soon after that, a group that included male students from the school and local politicians gathered in the street to demand his release. Nusrat began to worry about her safety, but nonetheless went to school on April 6 to take her exams. That day, a female student tricked her into going up to the roof. When she got there, a group of four or five people wearing burqas set her on fire.

According to the police chief, Nusrat’s killers tried to make her death look like a suicide. “One of the killers was holding her head down with his hands, so kerosene wasn’t poured there and that’s why her head wasn’t burned,” he told the BBC. But she survived long enough to tell the story of what happened to her — in the ambulance, she recorded herself on her brother’s phone, identifying some of the attackers and saying, “The teacher touched me, I will fight this crime till my last breath.”

She died on April 10. The case has gripped Bangladesh, and thousands attended Nusrat’s funeral. Thousands more have protested in the streets against the treatment of sexual assault survivors.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that police have arrested 15 people. And the case has attracted the attention of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who met Nusrat’s family in Dhaka and promised justice. “None of the culprits will be spared from legal action,” she said.

Read more at BBC.


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