A Bangladeshi college professor’s husband allegedly gouged her eyes out when he suspected her of cheating.
The Daily Beast Rumana Monzur, 33, became an assistant professor at Dhaka University in the country’s capital, and a year ago set out to earn a master’s degree in political science as a Fulbright scholar at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. This past May, missing her husband and 5-year-old daughter, she returned to Dhaka to write her dissertation. Little did she know her world would soon turn dark, quite literally.
A Muslim, she completed her late-afternoon prayer, and returned to the computer, her daughter drawing on the bed nearby. Monzur’s husband, Syeed Hasan Sumon, came in and she showed him her Facebook page of photos from her life in Canada, doing yoga and ice skating with friends after which he flew into a rage, accusing her of an affair with an Iranian student in Canada.
Sumon pulled his wife’s hair, throwing her to the bed and pinning her arms down with his legs, she says. Then, in an account that is bone-chilling, she says her husband pressed his fingers into her eyes, gouging them out. According to Monzur, he gnawed at her cheek, lips, and nose, biting off bits of flesh, blood spilling throughout the room as Monzur flailed. Her daughter, Anusheh, stood in a corner of the room, screaming, as two household servants struggled to open the locked door. A neighbor took her to the hospital, where her parents soon arrived. The diagnosis: blindness. “I lost my eyes,” says Monzur. “I don’t want anyone to suffer like I am suffering. It is horrible.”
Two days later, Bangladeshi police arrested Monzur’s husband, presenting him to the media handcuffed in jeans and a striped T shirt outside the police detectives’ headquarters. According to a Bangladesh online news story, headlined “Hassan Alleges Betrayal By Rumana,” the husband launched the type of smear campaign Monzur’s father had feared: “She had an affair with an Iranian male during her stay in Canada for her studies since August last year,” he told the press. He had deleted the Iranian man’s name from her Facebook friends, he said. “Finding the Iranian guy’s name deleted, she attacked me, and we had a scuffle,” he said. “I lost my glasses and since I don’t see well, she might have been hurt in the fight.”
A month after the attack, in her hospital room in Dhaka, Monzur’s voice trembled as she related details from her marriage. She says he started beating her a few days after they were married in 2001, with a respite for a few years when he was “good,” causing her to overlook his alleged abuse. Her father supported her leaving her husband. Her in-laws urged her to stay with him, until they returned from the U.S., family members say. The night of the attack, she said, “he pulled my hair and pressed me against the bed and grabbed my neck. He put his fingers into my eyes. He threatened me when he left that he would not let me live. He will kill me no matter where I go.”
But, in the way that this story was handled differently than many, this wasn’t just another headline about an attempted “honor killing” by a disgraced Muslim man. This time, the local and diaspora Bangladeshi community challenged the justification of violence. When a reporter asked Monzur at a second press conference about the allegations of an affair, Bangladeshi colleagues of Monzur, including her former professor, Mohsin, shouted, “Shame! Shame!” to quiet the spurious claims. “We have to change the very concept of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ in our societies,” says Mohsin. “We have to shame the perpetrators.”
UPDATE: On Dec.. 4, 2011, Hasan Sayeed Sumon, who tortured and blinded his wife Rumana Manzur, was found dead in his prison cell at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.