The following is a reconstruction of events from the night of January 5, based on accounts obtained by DhakaTribune’s Nawaz Farhin Antara from the law enforcement agencies and friends, family and doctors of the Dhaka University student who was raped in one of the city’s most secure zones beside Airport Road in Kurmitola
It was about 5:30pm Sunday when she got on “Khonika” — the only Dhaka University bus that runs between the campus and Tongi — to visit a friend in the Joar Sahara area (colloquially known as Shewra), next to Baridhara DOHS, just off Airport Road. They had made plans, with two other friends, to study together overnight for their exams. Like countless women all over the world, she was no stranger to going around by herself.
Despite its being the first day of the week, it took her only an hour and a half to get through Dhaka’s traffic to her destination. She got off the bus at 7:10pm, and realized that it was the bus stop before the one she should have got down at. She had disembarked at Kurmitola General Hospital, across Airport Road from Hotel Radisson Blu Dhaka Water Garden. There were no rickshaws nearby, so she elected to walk the 200 meters to Joar Sahara.
The footpath was well-maintained, with solid tiles paved as part of the renovation work on this stretch of Airport Road. Hedgerows and trees lined the pavement as part of a beautification project. Though inadequately lit, it was one of the most important thoroughfares in the city, and markedly safe due to its proximity to Dhaka Cantonment on the eastern side.
She was scarcely on her way when an arm snaked around her throat and another on her mouth, and she felt someone drag her behind the bushes that grew unruly in the shadow of the hedgerows. In the eerie green light for beautification, she barely managed to catch a glimpse of her assailant – a man in his mid to late 20s – as he began to mercilessly pummel her with one fist while another clenched her throat tight.
The choking aggravated her asthma, but her ragged breathing could not persuade him to relent. He was dishevelled and incoherent, asking her who she was, where she lived, and what she did. And throughout the questioning, he continued to hit her and verbally abuse her, targeting her legs so she could not kick or stand.
Over the next two hours, he raped her multiple times.
When she felt his weight move away from her, she opened her eyes and saw him rummaging through her bag. The fierce will she had grown up with propped her onto her feet. Barefoot, she stumbled a few steps, and noticed the attacker was not chasing, so she ran. She found a CNG-run auto-rickshaw, which took her to her friend’s house. It was a little after 9pm.
She told her friends what she could, and two of them immediately took her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital on an auto-rickshaw. It was around 11pm.
The hospital authorities admitted her to the hospital's One-Stop Crisis Centre. An uncle who works in the media was her first family member to find out. He quickly went to the hospital to be by his niece’s side.
The next morning, forensic experts confirmed they had found evidence of rape after primary examination. They also found scratches and other wounds consistent with her attempts to resist rape. Later in the day, police found the contents of her bag strewn near where she had been dragged to.
Though the Kurmitola area is perceived to be secure due to its proximity to Dhaka Cantonment and relatively in clear sight, there are several hotspots for drugs and prostitution behind the bushes that line Airport Road. There are also long stretches of pavement without street lights.