For Rumana

For Rumana, a song by the Terry Project’s Allen Sens.

Rumana Monzur, a 33-year-old master’s student of political science at the University of British Columbia, was assaulted by her husband while visiting her family in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The attack left her battered and blinded, but she is not alone. Monzur’s attack has served as a rallying point for anti-violence activists internationally, from Vancouver to Bangladesh and beyond. 

In a statement, President Stephen Toope expressed his sadness and dismay:

I am writing with deep sadness to share with you the news of the brutal attack on our graduate student Ms Rumana Monzur in Dhaka, Bangladesh. . .

. . .Along with all of Ms Monzur’s colleagues, friends, and instructors, I was appalled to learn of the violence  she has suffered.  I join with other members of the UBC community in expressing my condolences, my support, and my prayers for Rumana at this difficult time.  I am heartened to hear of the strong support that she has received from her colleagues and students at the University of Dhaka.  We at UBC join with those colleagues, students and friends in our support for her.

This tragic occasion is a poignant marker of the need to work to protect the fundamental human right of all women to pursue education.  The allegations that her commitment to her studies was a factor in the attack are of grave concern.  As the President of a leading global university, I emphasize that this right is fundamental to our mission, and I applaud those at the University of Dhaka who are expressing solidarity and support. . .

UBC has created an online donation fund to assist Rumana cover her medical expenses and assist with her degree. Additionally, a fundraiser will be held tonight at Fassil Ethopian restaurant, beginning at 6:30pm.
At the Vancouver Art Gallery, over 200 rallied to support Monzur and to condemn the scourge of domestic violence.

In Bangladesh, there has been mounting pressure online and from female parliamentarians to bring justice to her attacker.

This heinous crime should act as a reminder that domestic violence is all too common, and it can affect anyone, even a brilliant master’s student and Fulbright scholar. Roughly 60% of Bengali women experience domestic violence. Other nations have similarly shameful numbers, including Canada, where “half of all women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.” Globally, the latest large-scale WHO study on domestic violence found that “between 19% and 76% of all women had experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, by partners or non-partners, since the age of 15 years. In almost all settings, the majority of violence against women had been perpetrated by their intimate partner.”

Rumana’s case is special because she happens to be a student of this university. Normally, the battered face of domestic violence is an invisible one. No media attention, no outrage, no change. As Dhaka-based Zafar Sobhan argues, it’s time for us to take responsibility to change the “monstrous” society we’ve created:

In the end, Rumana’s plight is not just about her and a monster of a husband. It is about all of us and the monstrous society that we have created, and that we are a part of, and the monstrosities that we acquiesce to every day by our tacit acceptance of the prevailing value structure.

Rumana is paying the price for our refusal to look squarely at ourselves in the mirror and acknowledge what a sick society we are.  We all failed her.

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Gordon Katic (@gordonkatic) has been student coordinator for the Terry Project for over two years, and in that time started BARtalk, and the Terry Project on CiTR 101.9FM. A former Ubyssey columnist, and now a student at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism, Gordon is trying to use journalism to tell important stories about global issues.