16 suspects have been charged in Bangladesh for burning a teenage girl alive at her Islamic school on March 6, in Feni, a small town 100 miles outside the capital, Dhaka
Nusrat Jahan Rafi was attacked in school in a deliberate act of arson, a day after she filed a sexual harassment complaint against a school employee
Rafi, 19, was lured to a roof top on the day she was sitting for her final exams, doused with kerosene and set ablaze by a group of people
Investigations revealed the killing was planned with almost military precision
Siraj Ud Daula, headmaster of the Islamic school who was the target of the sexual harassment complaint is among those charged
Police say Daula ordered her murder from prison when she refused to withdraw her accusations against him
Assailants had planned to stage a suicide, but Rafi, despite burns to 80% of her body, survived long enough to give a statement before she died on April 10
Daula allegedly has admitted in court that he ordered the murder
12 of the 16 defendants have also admitted their involvement, including students
Two local politicians who among the 16 accused have not admitted guilt
Prosecutors are calling for the death penalty for all of the suspects
Sixteen people have been charged in Bangladesh over the shocking murder of a teenager who was burned to death after reporting sexual harassment.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 19, was doused with kerosene and set on fire on the roof of her Islamic school on 6 April, days after filing a complaint.
Headmaster Siraj Ud Daula, targeted in the complaint, is among those charged.
Police said Daula the head of the Sonagazi Islamia Senior Fazil Madrassa, where Rafi was a student, ordered the murder from jail ordered her murder from prison when she refused to withdraw her accusations against him.
They described the preparations for the killing as being like a “military plan”.
The killing of the teenager last month, sparked mass protests in Bangladesh and shone a spotlight on the vulnerability of victims of sexual assault and harassment in the country.
Sonagazi Madrasa Principal, Siraj Ud Daula, [dressed in white], the prime suspect in the arson attack against female student Nusrat Jahan Rafi at the school, being taken to remand by police in Feni, April 10
Killers: Confessions by madarassa student suspects, Nur Uddin [left], and his brother Shahadat Hossain Shamim [right], who both copped guilty pleas, implicated 12 other suspects in their testimony
The student’s confessions implicated Awami League’s Sonagazi upazila unit’s President Ruhul Amin, [photo], in the crime
Nusrat Rafi, a final year student at the madrassa, filed a police complaint against the schools headmaster, Siraj Doula in late March and he was arrested.
On 6 April she attended the school to sit her final exams when she was allegedly lured to the roof of the school and set alight by a group of people wearing burkas, a one-piece veil that covers the face and body.
They had planned to make it look like a suicide, police said, but Ms Rafi – who suffered burns to 80% of her body – was able to give a statement before she died on 10 April.
Police in Feni, a small town about 100 miles outside the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, formally laid murder charges on Wednesday against the 16 accused. They include students at the madrassa and two local politicians from the governing Awami League party who were in prominent positions at the school.
Two of the key suspects in the Nusrat Jahan Rafi murder case, Nur Uddin and Shahadat Hossain Shamim, both students of Sonagazi Islamia Fazil [Degree] Madrasa, admitted to to the crime in court, implicating 12 other people, including Awami League’s Sonagazi upazila unit’s President Ruhul Amin, in the crime
Massive crowds gathered in Nusrat’s hometown for her funeral in April
After suspended madrasa Principal Siraj Ud Daula was arrested in a sexual harassment case filed by Nusrat’s family, Ruhul Amin instructed Nur Uddin and Shahadat to initiate a movement demanding Daula’s release from jail. Sonagazi Municipality Councillor Maksud Alam gave the boys Tk10,000 for the job.
Later, another teacher of the madrasa also gave the duo Tk5,000 to stage a demonstration and burn Nusrat to death.
A family’s grief: Nusrat Rafi’s brother, Mahmudul Hasan Noman, seen [seen], grieving at her funeral, said, “We want all the culprits to be hanged to death”
The victim’s dad is seeking justice for his daughter
Investigators are calling for the death penalty for all of the suspects. Police say that the principal has confessed in court that he ordered the murder.
They say that in total 12 of the accused have given statements of confession. The two local politicians have not admitted any involvement.
In the wake of Rafi’s death, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pledged that every person involved in the killing would be brought to justice.
“None of the culprits will be spared from legal action,” she said.
According to her complaint, on 27 March, the teen accused the headmaster of the madrassa she attended of calling her into his office and repeatedly touching her in an inappropriate manner. She ran out before things could go any further.
She and her family went to the police on the same day and she gave a statement.
At the police station, she was filmed by the officer in charge as she described the ordeal. In the video she is visibly distressed and tries to hide her face with her hands.
The police officer is heard calling the complaint “no big deal” and telling her to move her hands from her face. He has now been charged with illegally recording her statement and sharing it online.
The madrassa’s headmaster, Siraj Daula was arrested after Nusrat Rafi filed her complaint, triggering street protests locally demanding his release.
Madarasa principal Siraj Ud Daula who Rafi accused of sexual harassment allegedly has confessed masterminding the murder while in police custody
‘No further abuse of our girls’:
According to Police Bureau of Investigation [PBI] chief Banaj Kumar Majumder, school head Daula was visited in jail by associates whom he instructed to intimidate Nusrat’s family to withdraw the complaint.
When this failed, the principal is alleged to have ordered her to be killed if necessary. At a news conference on Tuesday, the PBI chief Majumder, described careful planning – including the purchase of kerosene, burkas and gloves.
The suspects allegedly assigned roles to participants of the 6 April, attack.
Some guarded the gates of the madrassa to make sure only students entered, while others kept watch in front of the specific building where Nusrat was to be attacked, chief Majumder said.
According to a statement given by Nusrat, she was lured to the roof of that building by a fellow female student. She was allegedly told that one of her friends was being beaten up.
‘Justice for Nusrat Rafi’: Protests have been held in Dhaka and in Feni – the victim’s hometown
There, Majumder said, she was pressured to withdraw the case and asked to sign a blank piece of paper. When she refused she was gagged and bound before being doused with kerosene and sat alight.
In the ambulance, fearing she might not survive, she recorded a statement on her brother’s mobile phone and identified some of her attackers as students at the madrassa.
“The teacher touched me, I will fight this crime till my last breath,” she can be heard saying in the video.
People in Bangladesh are only just recovering from the dreadful killing of Nusrat Jahan Rafi, particularly after the investigation revealed the killing was far better planned than previously thought.
The fact it happened in a place where children should feel most safe shocked everyone. The fact it happened in a religious institution added to their woes.
Rafi’s brother, Mahmudul Hasan Noman, said they wanted a fast-track trial. “We want all the culprits to be hanged to death,” he said.
For many, the death of Nusrat evoked memories of victims of sexual harassment, rape and murder who have not yet received justice in Bangladesh.
In many cases, people are quick to blame the victims of sexual harassment and that might be one of the reasons the accused thought they could get away with their plan.
In 2009, the country’s Supreme Court passed an order directing institutions of learning to establish sexual harassment cells in all educational institutions where students can take their complaints, but very few schools have implemented the initiative.
Activists are now demanding the order be implemented and enshrined in law to protect students.