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     Volume 4 Issue 11 | September 3 , 2004 |

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A True Fighter to the End

Kajalie Shehreen Islam

The shock and horror of the grenade attack of August 21 on an Awami League rally is still fresh on our minds. Along with this is the grief at the loss of a dedicated women's rights leader. The news of central Awami League (AL) leader Ivy Rahman being critically injured in the grenade attack made national headlines for days. The pain of her 58-hour struggle with death was felt by people across the country. Having fought in the liberation war of 1971 and for the establishment of women's rights over the decades, Ivy Rahman's reputation was not limited within her own political party. The mourning of and protests against her violent death on August 24 were not confined only to the members of her family and party but shared by the entire nation.

Jebun Nahar Ivy, daughter of Principal of Dhaka College, Jalauddin Ahmed, and Hasina Begum, was born in Bhairab, Kishoreganj on July 7, 1944. She was the fifth child among eight sisters and three brothers. Married in 1958 to AL leader Zillur Rahman, she herself had two daughters and a son.

As a member of Mukul Fouz and Girl Guides, Ivy Rahman had been involved in social work. A student of the Bangla Department of the University of Dhaka, she was an active Chhatra League worker from her student days. After having taken training in guerrilla warfare, she played an active role in Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971. Sources close to her have said that only a month ago she mentioned her wish of writing a book about her experiences of the dark days of the war.

In 1969, Ivy Rahman became the founding Organising Secretary of the Mohila Awami League. In 1975 she was nominated member of Jatiya Mohila League. After the death of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that year, she actively protested his brutal killing -- as she did Ershad's autocratic regime in the late 1980s. In 1978, she became Women's Affairs Secretary of the Awami League Central Working Committee (ALCWC). From 1980 to 2002, she served as President of Mohila Awami League, and between 1996 and 2001, she chaired Bangladesh Mohila Sangstha and Jatiya Mohila Samabaya Samity. She was also President of Mohila Samity and General Secretary of Bangladesh Andha Kalyan Samity.

As Chairperson of Bangladesh Mohila Sangstha, Ivy Rahman worked with various women's and children's rights groups in forming the Bill of Women and Child Repression Act 2000. She also campaigned for equal participation of women in parliament, demanding direct election of women and increasing the number of reserved seats for women in parliament. In doing so, she even questioned and criticised her own party when its actions contradicted the values of women's rights.

Despite her many distinctions, her renowned beauty and her independent personality, "Ivy Apa" is most often remembered for never making them obvious. Everyone who knew her agree on the fact that she would never sit up on stage with other party leaders but always among her "girls". Even if she made a speech, she would be back on the field right after it. She was always one of them and was greatly loved for it.

On August 21, Ivy Rahman saved a seat for herself in the front rows of the rally on Bangabandhu Avenue, held to protest the recent bombings and increase in fundamentalism in the country. She sat close to the truck where Leader of the Opposition and AL President Sheikh Hasina made her speech, at the end of which Ivy Rahman offered Hasina her hand to help her down from the truck. Seconds later, grenades exploded right next to the vehicle carrying a number of top AL leaders.

Ivy Rahman's legs were shattered in the blast and had to be amputated when she was taken to the hospital. She also suffered injuries to the chest and arms. Two days later, her kidneys and liver stopped functioning, and half a day after that, she finally succumbed to her injuries. Her body was laid to rest with state honours on August 25 at Banani Graveyard.

The thousands of people -- family, friends and colleagues, freedom fighters, women's rights activists, political leaders and common people -- who mourned her death, bear witness to the fact that Ivy Rahman was not just an Awami League leader. She was a national leader, deeply revered and loved by all who knew her and all who knew of her.

Ivy Rahman was a leader of the people and a champion of women's rights in this country. Along with her bereaving family and party members, Ivy Rahman will be greatly missed by the general people, whose freedom she fought for not only during the liberation war, but every day since, every time she stood up for every woman's rights.



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