Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 19, was lured onto the roof of her Islamic school in Bangladesh and told to withdraw her complaint. When she refused, she was doused with kerosene and set on fire on April 6, days after filing a complaint about the actions of the school’s headmaster.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on May 30, 2019

The death penalty is being sought for 16 people charged with burning to death a teenage girl Nusrat Jahan Rafi who had reported sexual harassment.

Nusrat Jahan Rafi was lured onto the roof of her Islamic school in Bangladesh and told to withdraw her complaint.

When the 19-year-old refused, she was doused with kerosene and set on fire on April 6, 11 days after filing a complaint about the actions of the school’s headmaster.

The headmaster Siraj Ud Doula is among those charged with the young woman’s murder, which police say he orchestrated from prison when she refused to withdraw her accusations against him.

“They are charged under the women and children repression law and we’ll recommend the death penalty for all 16 accused,” Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) lead investigator Mohammad Iqbal told AFP news agency.

Nusrat had gone to the police in late March to report the alleged sexual harassment against the teacher, and a leaked video shows the local police station chief registering her complaint but dismissing it as “not a big deal”.

Iqbal said at least five people, including three of Rafi’s classmates, had tied her up with a scarf before setting her on fire. The plan was to pass the incident off as a case of suicide.

Rafi suffered burns to 80 per cent of her body and died in hospital on April 10. But she recorded a video before her death, repeating her allegations against the principal.

Shah Alam, a PBI member and investigative officer in the case who submitted the charges, said that Nusrat was killed for taking a stand against the misconduct of the principal and others.

“I lost my only daughter. She was an innocent girl who raised her voice against injustice and died brutally because of that. Now I want justice for her,” AKM Musa Manik, Rafi’s father, told Al Jazeera.

The head of Mahila Parishad, a women’s rights group, gave a guarded welcome to the quick investigation but said more needed to be done to end a “culture of impunity” over sexual harassment and rape cases. “Very few rape cases end in convictions,” she said.

According to the group, about 950 women were raped in Bangladesh last year.

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