DHAKA: Police investigating the barbaric murder of a teenage student who was set ablaze after accusing her headmaster of sexual assault have found vital clues.
Nusrat Rafi, 19, was doused in paraffin and set alight by a gang of fellow students at an Islamic school in Bangladesh after refusing to drop her allegations.
As thousands of women in Bangladesh and campaigners worldwide demand justice for the teenager, detectives revealed they had recovered burkas worn by Nusrat’s assailants to disguise their identities.
Police have made 17 arrests and reportedly obtained confessions from two of the alleged attackers.
Nusrat claimed the headmaster, named locally as Siraj-ud-Daula, assaulted her in his office in March but that when she tried to report it to police, officers allegedly told her it was ‘no big deal’.
Video footage from March 27 shows Nusrat – who lived in the small town of Feni, about 100 miles from the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka – tearfully lodging her complaint with police and describing how the headmaster allegedly ‘touched her inappropriately’.
But the video triggered a backlash against the teenager among staunchly conservative Muslims which, according to local reports, led to the savage attack on her.
Two students have told police the headmaster ordered them to kill Nusrat if she refused to withdraw her allegations against him.
The pair are alleged to be among four or five students who lured Nusrat to the roof of the religious school, used scarves to bind her hands and feet and issued the headmaster’s ultimatum.
After setting her ablaze, the gang fled and, according to reports, dumped their burkas in a nearby canal where they were found.
Nusrat suffered 80 per cent burns. She was taken by ambulance to hospital with her brother who recorded her account of the attack on his mobile phone.
In a harrowing video, she repeated her claims against the headmaster and named some of the students who allegedly attacked her.
Despite being in agony, she said: ‘The teacher touched me, I will fight this crime till my last breath.’ Nusrat died four days after the attack which took place on April 6.
Hundreds of protesters have since taken to the streets of Dhaka to demand the gang face prosecution.
Campaigners say cases of sexual harassment and violence against women often go unreported in the conservative and mainly Muslim nation of 160 million people because the victims feel intimidated and stigmatised. Bangladeshi actress Alisha Pradhan, 26, who joined the protests in Dhaka, said: ‘We want justice. Our girls must grow up safely and with dignity.
‘We protest any forms of violence against women, and authorities must ensure justice.’
Sheikh Hasina Wazed, 71, the female prime minister of Bangladesh, has met Nusrat’s family and pledged to bring her killers to justice. The local police chief has been removed from his post for alleged ‘negligence’.