Nusrat Jahan Rafi was doused with kerosene and set on fire at her school in Bangladesh. Less than two weeks earlier, she had filed a sexual harassment complaint against her headmaster.
Her courage in speaking out against sexual assault, her death five days after being set alight and everything that happened in-between has gripped Bangladesh and brought attention to the vulnerability of sexual harassment victims in this conservative South Asian country.
Nusrat, who was 19, was from Feni, a small town 100 miles (160km) south of Dhaka. She was studying at a madrassa or Islamic school. On 27 March, she said the headmaster called her into his office and repeatedly touched her in an inappropriate manner. Before things could go any further she ran out.
Many girls and young women in Bangladesh choose to keep their experiences of sexual harassment or abuse secret for fear of being shamed by society or their families. What made Nusrat Jahan different is that she didn’t just speak out – she went to the police with the help of her family on the day the alleged abuse happened.
According to a statement given by Nusrat, a fellow female student took her to the roof of the school, saying one of her friends was being beaten up. When Nusrat reached the rooftop four or five people, wearing burqas, surrounded her and allegedly pressured her to withdraw the case against the headmaster. When she refused, they set her on fire.
Police Bureau of Investigation chief Banaj Kumar Majumder said the killers wanted “to make it look like a suicide”. Their plan failed when Nusrat was rescued after they fled the scene. She was able to give a statement before she died.
“One of the killers was holding her head down with his hands, so kerosene wasn’t poured there and that’s why her head wasn’t burned,” Mr Majumder told BBC Bengali.
But when Nusrat was taken to a local hospital, doctors found burns covering 80% of her body. Unable to treat the burns, they sent her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
In the ambulance, fearing she might not survive, she recorded a statement on her brother’s mobile phone.
“The teacher touched me, I will fight this crime till my last breath,” you can hear her say.
She also identified some of her attackers as students at the madrassa.
News of Nusrat’s health dominated Bangladeshi media. On 10 April, she died. Thousands of people turned out for her funeral in Feni.
Police have since arrested 15 people, seven of them allegedly involved in the murder. Among those arrested are the two male students who organised the protest in support of the headmaster. The headmaster himself remains in custody. The policeman who filmed Nusrat’s sexual harassment complaint has been removed from his post and transferred to another department.