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     Volume 4 Issue 15 | October 2, 2004 |

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Human Rights

Rahela the Fighter

On September 21, when we went to the DMCH for a different story, I couldn't resist going to Ward 35 to see Rahela. I was shocked to see that she had become so thin. Her eyes were half closed and she looked unconscious. Her mother stared at her child's face and cried in anguish. Rahela was dying.

Shamsunnahar Begum, a field worker of Ain o Shalish Kendra (ASK), who had been assigned by ASK to help Rahela, was almost in tears as she said that the infection had spread all over her legs. Fluid was oozing out of her limbs and the doctors were going to transfer her to the Intensive Care Unit. I then noticed Rahela's sister, Nasima, with whom I had talked a few times before, sitting in a corner saying absolutely nothing.

The next time I went to Ward 35, a few days later, there was a new patient on Rahela's bed. She was already in ICU and her condition had deteriorated.

Twenty-year-old Rahela Akhtar Lima, finally gave up her amazing struggle to live on Thursday, September 23 at 3 in the morning. She had been at the DMCH for 23 days and three days in a hole in Savar where her assailants left her for dead.

Rahela's sheer determination to survive is awe-inspiring. After being raped, stabbed with her spinal cord almost totally severed, Rahela had to endure a second bout of torture of having acid poured over her. A torture as brutal as that would be sure to kill anyone. But miraculously she survived in spite of being left bleeding in a hole in a bush. Insects had poured into the open wound at the back of her neck and the injury had left her permanently paralyzed neck downwards. Yet she still spoke clearly and revealed the names of her assailants.

According to a Prothom Alo report, Rahela had been working at a garments factory after separating from her husband. It was here that two co-workers, Foja and Delwar, used to harass her. Around two months before Rahela was assaulted, Foja had slapped Rahela after which she complained to the management. Foja was sacked. It is suspected that Foja and Delwar, with the help of their friend Liton, took their revenge on Rahela.

After Rahela had been rescued, an SI filed a case at the Savar thana. Rahela had given the police three names: Delwar, Liton and a third name, which the police have not revealed for investigation purposes. Liton and Delwar fled the scene as soon as they found out that Rahela had been rescued. The police arrested Foja and the case is still under investigation.

Now that she is no more, there are chances that like all other heinous crimes, this too will be forgotten. But this must not be allowed to happen. Human rights organisations have voiced their protests against the crime. Rahela was a fighter who seemed to have stayed alive so she could make sure people knew the identities of those who had so brutally cut her life short. The cries of protest and outrage must go on until the rapist-killers are caught and punished.

A. M. Amin

In a previous story, Rahela was referred to as Shima, in concurrence with our policy to protect the identity of a rape victim.



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