In Feni, a small city south of Dhaka, Bangladesh, 16 people were sentenced to death on Thursday for the burning of a teenage girl who accused her principal of sexual assault.
In March, the principal called 19-year-old Nusrat Jahan Rafi to his office for a meeting at her madrasa (Islamic school). It wasn’t the first time her principal, Siraj Ud Doula, asked her to come in and closed the door. She later reported to her teachers and classmates that he touched her inappropriately and repeatedly — but everyone suggested she stay quiet. One day in late March, after repeated and ongoing “mental and sexual harassment,” however, Rafi had enough. She filed an official sexual harassment complaint to local authorities, naming Doula as her offender.
At the police station, officers took her statement on film, which they then illegally shared on social media. She cried, recounting the numerous assaults by Doula, burying her face in her hands. “It’s no big deal,” the police are heard saying in the video. “Stop crying — nothing happened that you have to cry,” they continued.
The video report spread quickly throughout her school and town. A group of male students began protesting Doula’s eventual arrest, demanding his release, and condemning Rafi’s statements against him. According to the Associated Press, Rafi and her family began receiving death threats to her home.
Eleven days after Rafi filed the police report, a group dressed in burkas lured her to the rooftop of her madrasa. They reportedly surrounded her with their faces concealed. The group demanded she withdraw her complaint against Doula. She refused, and they doused her in kerosene and set her on fire. Rafi was discovered running aflame down the stairs of her school, screaming for help. She survived for five days, sustaining burns to 80% of her body and working until her last breath to identify her attackers.
Now, 16 people are charged with her death, including two other teachers from her school, several classmates, and even local political leaders. According to a police spokesperson, Doula is being accused of contracting several people to kill Rafi and pass her death off as a suicide.
“Nobody will get away with murder in Bangladesh,” lead prosecutor Hafez Ahmed told the press.
Before she passed, a final video of Rafi from the ambulance was released. In it, she named some of her attackers, and concluded with one last statement: “The teacher touched me. I will fight this crime until my last breath.”