A schoolgirl was burned to death in Bangladesh on the orders of her headteacher after she reported him for sexually harassing her, police said on Friday.
The death of 19-year-old Nusrat Jahan Rafi has sparked protests across the south Asian nation, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasinapromising to prosecute all those involved.
Rafi was lured to the rooftop of the religious school she attended where her attackers asked her to withdraw the sexual harassment complaint she had filed with police.
When she refused, she was doused in kerosene and set on fire. On April 10, she died from the burns, which covered 80 percent of her body.
Police said on Friday that one of the 17 people arrested in connection with her death had accused the school’s principal of ordering the attack.
The principal “told them to put pressure on Rafi to withdraw the case or kill her if she refused”, senior police superintendent Mohammad Iqbal, who is leading the investigation, told AFP.
Rafi had gone to the police in late March to report the sexual harassment, and a leaked video shows the local police station chief registering her complaint but dismissing it as “not a big deal”.
In the video, Rafi can be seen crying, visibly distressed, and trying to hide her face with her hands.
Iqbal said at least five of those under arrest, including three of Rafi’s classmates, had bound her hands and feet with a scarf before setting her on fire.
“The plan was to pass the incident off as a suicide. But it fell through after Rafi managed to come downstairs while on fire because the scarf burned and freed her hands and feet,” he said.
In the ambulance, fearing she might not survive, Rafi recorded a statement on her brother’s mobile phone.
“The teacher touched me, I will fight this crime till my last breath,” she said. She also identified some of her attackers.
According to local media reports, Rafi also wrote a letter in her class notebook, before she was set on fire, describing how the principal sexually assaulted her.
Two young men have confessed involvement in Rafi’s killing. They include a man who admitted to holding a grudge against her for refusing his own advances.
Outrage across the world
“The horrifying murder of a brave woman who sought justice shows how badly the Bangladesh government has failed victims of sexual assault.”
“Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s death highlights the need for the Bangladesh government to take survivors of sexual assault seriously and ensure that they can safely seek a legal remedy and be protected from retaliation.”
SHARE HER NAME,SHARE HER STORY
Nusrat Jahan Rafi was burned alive for disclosing sexual abuse by the head of her school.
Today we say her name and honor her bravery.
No child should be afraid to go to school or punished for reporting abuse. #BelieveSurvivors 💛