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     Volume 4 Issue 12 | September 10, 2004 |

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Human Rights

"Save me, I am not dead"

Aasha Mehreen Amin

A tale could not get any grislier. A 19-year-old housewife being raped by two criminals and then, having her head almost severed and other parts of her body mercilessly stabbed after which having acid poured all over her. And yet by some miracle she survived to reveal the names of her assailants.

In a dirty, dank room of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) which is called Ward 35, 19-year-old Shima (not her real name) lies motionless in a narrow bed, the sheets of which have not been changed for days. She is being given saline intravenously and pain killers and sedatives keep her asleep most of the time. Paralysed from neck downwards Shima cannot feel anything, not even when a small cockroach brushes against her feet. Her breathing is painfully laboured. Her head is shaven to make it easier for the nurses to change the dressing of her horrible wound. The back of her neck which is now covered with a collar, has a gaping hole that exposes her spinal cord.

"You can put your hand in, its so big," says her older sister Sharmin (not her real name). "They (the assailants) cut even the bone."

A little while later Shima's father comes to visit his youngest daughter. He is still numb with grief and is in no condition to talk about Shima's ordeal. Sharmin, one of Shima's three sisters, seems stronger and manages to say a few words.

"When she went missing we went looking for her at the garment factory and her friends' houses. It was only on the fourth day that we were informed that she was lying here at the DMCH."

Married to a carpenter, Shima worked at a garment factory in Savar. Often while going home, Shima would have to endure lewd comments from a local mastaan named Liton and his friends. On August 29, the factory was closed so Shima and one of her friends decided to go to the zoo. At around 12 pm, they were returning home and passed by a hall in Jahangirnagar University. Liton and four of his friends stopped the girls on the way. After scaring off her friend they dragged Shima to a nearby bush and raped her. While she was being assaulted, Shima screamed and told the rapists that she knew who they were, which only spurred more brutality. With sharp knives they slashed at her, almost severing her neck from her spine and pouring acid over her, after which they shoved her into a hole in the ground . The assailants left the scene assuming she was dead. But by some quirk of fate, Shima remained alive even after three days when a gardener heard her crying out: "Save me, I am not dead." Shima, with the help of the Savar police, was rushed to DMCH, with grievous injuries.

Shima's husband knew that Liton had been harassing his wife and had gone to him begging him to leave his wife alone. But his pleas were of no use for a seasoned criminal like Liton. Liton, a local mastaan who was involved in extortion activities and had a murder case against him, conducted his criminal activities freely with no moves from the police to arrest him.

The Savar thana police filed a case under the Prevention of Women and Children Repression Act against Liton and some of his friends. Since then Ain O Shalish Kendra is handling the case and has helped the family to pay for some of the medical expenses. The family, however is finding it hard to meet the high cost of treatment;all the medicine and other supplies have to be bought from outside.

According to Prothom Alo's report, Liton, around 18 or 20, had been sent to the Middle East in 2000 when his family realised that he had become addicted to drugs. In 2002, Liton came back and began his criminal activities. Liton's family is not sure which political party he is associated with. Liton's father has told Prothom Alo, "I could never imagine I would have such a son. I want him to get an appropriate punishment. If he comes back I will myself hand him over to the police." Meanwhile Liton and his associates remain absconding.

A Prothom Alo investigation included interviews with family members of Monir, who was allegedly killed by Liton and his associates. According to Monir's wife, even after a murder case had been filed against Liton he remained scot-free and continued to threaten Monir's family.

Shima mumbles something to her sister. The collar around her neck to protect her wound, is covering her lips and she wants it to be pulled down. Shima can only feel her neck and head. The doctor treating her at DMCH says that her spinal cord has been almost completely severed by the injury. There are chances that she may develop meningitis in which case it will not be possible to save her. "Please pray for her," says Sharmin, finally letting the tears well up in her eyes. "The doctor has said there is little chance of her surviving. We haven't told our mother yet because she would not be able to take it." But even if she does make it, the doctor has said that she will probably remain disabled for the rest of her life. This is what this 19-year-old, who was once a pretty, carefree young woman and who survived the most terrifying ordeal, can look forward to. If she lives that is.


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