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Teenage girl in Bangladesh burned alive after reporting sexual harassment

20 April 2019

Nusrat Jahan Rafi, 19, was drenched with kerosene and set on fire at her school in Bangladesh just two weeks after she had filed a sexual harassment complaint against her headmaster.

Nusrat's funeral was attended by thousands, as her story gripped Bangladesh and activists across the country and the world demanded better treatment for victims of sexual violence. Rafi was from Feni, a small town 100 miles south of Dhaka. She was studying at a madrassa, or Islamic school.

Almost two weeks before, on March 27, she was called into the headmaster's office, where she said the headmaster "touched her in an inappropriate manner". She said she ran out before things could go further. That very day, she went to the police, where she offered a statement that was videotaped by the police officer in charge.

In the video, Rafi can be seen bawling and trying to hide her face with her hands.

But officers did not arrest or question the man, and instead the video found its way into local media.

Police said at least five of those under arrest, including three of Rafi's classmates, tied her with a scarf before setting her on fire.

A protest was arranged by two male student and the people gathered outside demanded the release of the headmaster.

On April 6, Rafi returned to her school to sit exams but was lured to the rooftop after being told her friend was being beaten up. But when Nusrat reached the roof, according to the BBC, "four or five people, wearing burqas, surrounded her and allegedly pressured her to withdraw the case against the headmaster".

When she refused, they doused her in kerosene, and lit her on fire.

According to Banaj Kumar Majumder, the chief of the Police Bureau of Investigation in Bangladesh, the attackers wanted to make Nusrat's death look like a suicide, but Nusrat was rescued after they fled the scene.

As her singed body was rushed to hospital, Rafi knew death coming so the fearless girl made a recording on her brother's phone, "The teacher touched me, I will fight this crime till my last breath". She died with almost 85 percent burns to her body on April 10. "So she could not recognise any of them", Rafi's older brother told The Daily Star, adding that she suspected them to be all female.

News of Nusrat's health dominated Bangladeshi media.

The headmaster remains in custody and the policeman who filmed Nusrat's sexual harassment complaint was transferred to another department.

Police have since arrested 15 people, seven of them allegedly involved in the murder.

The headmaster was arrested, prompting a protest outside the police station organization by two local men. Her death led to protests across Bangladesh with people on Thursday forming human chains and holding demonstrations seeking justice for the victim. According to the report, the police is also investigating whether there has been negligence on the part of police while investigating the murder case.

She had reported on 27 March she was called by her headmaster in his office.

Following a national outcry over the case, the prime minister of Bangladesh has promised stern action against the killers.

Teenage girl in Bangladesh burned alive after reporting sexual harassment