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Teen Dies After Being Set On Fire For Reporting That Her School Principal Sexually Harassed Her

Mamunur Rashid/NurPhoto via Getty Images

***WARNING: This story contains intense descriptions of injuries and horrific acts. Be advised.

Nusrat Jahan Rafi was a 19-year-old student in Bangladesh. She was doused in kerosene and set on fire as retaliation for filing sexual assault charges against her school’s headmaster.

Nursat studied at a madrasa, or Islamic college, in Feni. On March 27th, she said her principal had called her into his office and touched her inappropriately.

When she tried to bring it up the sexual harassment with other teachers, she was told to keep quiet. She instead tried to take the issue to the police.

An officer recorded her description of events, though his comments brushed off her worry. He later illegally posted the video the social media. In the video, you can see Nursat crying, her face in her hands as she tries to tell her story.

The officer says at one point,

“It’s not a big deal.”

For many women in Bangladesh, keeping their assaults secret is the only way to live. Speaking out can mean abuse, ostracization or even death. Nursat was victim to all three.

After her report, the headmaster, Maulana Siraj Ud Doula, was arrested on sexual assault charges. However, things got worse for Nursat. She was blamed for the incident.

She and her family began receiving death threats. There was an organized protest, demanding the principal’s release. Mostly the male students attended, though local politicians also showed support for the accused sexual harasser.

On April 6th, Nursat was told by a female student that one of her friends was being attacked on the roof of a school building. When she got there, several people surrounded her. They tried to threaten her to withdraw her accusation against the headmaster.

Nursat refused.

The group jumped her and held her down. They poured kerosene over her body and then lit her on fire. Then they ran away.

It’s believed they tried to burn her to death in some kind of attempt to make it look like a suicide. However, they failed. Nursat screamed for help as her entire body was engulfed in flames.

She was found and taken to a local hospital where she was able to give her statement of events, and even identify some of her attackers. One of the killers had held her head down with his hands, meaning the kerosene couldn’t reach her head and face.

However, burns covered over 80% of her body. The small hospital didn’t have the ability to adequately help her, so they sent her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

Being transferred again, and suffering terrible injuries, Nursat worried she wouldn’t survive.

She recorded a statement on her brother’s phone,

“The teacher touched me. I will fight this crime till my last breath.”

On April 10th, she succumbed to her injuries and passed away.

Since her death, police have arrested 15 people involved with Nursat’s harassment and death. Seven people were arrested in connection with the fire, and two were in connection with the organized protest. The principal remains in custody.

The police officer who recorded and leaked Nursat’s accusation has been transferred to another department.

As her story spread, the country became outraged at her treatment. Thousands of people turned up for her funeral. Protests sparked across the country demanding justice for the murdered woman.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wazed, has promised precisely that:

“None of the culprits will be spared from legal action,”

The police have also started an internal investigation into their own handling of Nursat’s claim.


Written by Ben Acosta

Ben Acosta is an Arizona-based fiction author and freelance writer. In his free time, he critiques media and acts in local stage productions.