July 1, 2016, is considered one of the darkest days in the history of Bangladesh that saw the worst terrorist attack in the capital’s Gulshan.
In the darkness shone a bright light -- Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain whose courage and human qualities continue to inspire people all over the world.
Faraaz, 20, son of Simeen Hossain and Waquer Hossain, and a meritorious student of Emory University in Atlanta, USA, gave his life by refusing to abandon his friends during the attack at Holey Artisan Bakery.
On the fateful evening, Faraaz went to the restaurant to meet his friends Abinta Kabir, an American citizen of Bangladesh origin, and Tarishi Jain from India.
Abinta got enrolled in Emory University in 2015. She had come to Dhaka just after completing summer courses. Jain, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, was also in Dhaka on summer vacation, according to a webpage dedicated to the memories of Faraaz.
Around 8:45pm, a group of heavily-armed militants stormed the café and held everyone hostage there. Police came under heavy gunfire as they attempted to enter the restaurant.
The militants had targeted non-Muslims and foreigners.
When the militants learnt that Faraaz was a Bangladeshi Muslim, they asked him to leave. He asked if his two friends could come with him. As the terrorists refused to let the two go, Faraaz chose to stay by their side till the end, according to witnesses who were inside the café during the siege.
After nearly 12 hours of the standoff, special forces of the army succeeded in breaking the siege. The bodies of 20 victims, including Faraaz, Tarishi and Abinta, were found inside the café.
While studying in the US, Faraaz was determined to return home and contribute to the development of the country, following in the footsteps of his mother Simeen Hossain, managing director of Eskayef Pharmaceuticals Ltd, as well as the footsteps of his grandparents Latifur Rahman, chairman of Transcom Group, and Shahnaz Rahman.
Though that dream remained unfulfilled, the rare example of his courage, friendship and humanity, which has been recognised globally, remains a beacon of hope for humanity.
Milan-based non-profit organisation Garden of the Righteous Worldwide, in cooperation with the Italian foreign ministry, honoured Faraaz by setting up a “Garden of the Righteous” at the Italian embassy in Tunisian capital Tunis in July 2016.
He is the only non-Arab Muslim who has been inducted into the Garden for standing up against the current spate of terrorism.
The Harmony Foundation of India in November 2016 posthumously conferred on Faraaz the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice -- an award that was given to persons like the Dalai Lama, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Baroness Caroline Cox and Malala Yousafzai.
In recognition of his valour, Distressed Children & Infants International (DCI) -- a US-based child rights organisation -- in February 2017 posthumously gave Faraaz the DCI 2017 Humanitarian Award.
To promote the values demonstrated by Faraaz, PepsiCo INC. in 2016 launched annual “Faraaz Hossain Courage Award” for the next 20 years.
In one of his articles in 2016, veteran Indian journalist and columnist Kuldip Nayar wrote, “Just as statues of Bhagat Singh have been erected all over India, Faraaz should also be remembered in the entire subcontinent and I am confident that people would name their sons and statues after him, not only in Bangladesh but also in India and elsewhere.”