In June 2011, Rumana Monzur’s visit to Bangladesh turned into a nightmare when her husband, the father of her child viciously attacked her. He robbed her of her sight and disfigured her face because she wanted to pursue a higher education in Canada. “He has made my world dark. I can’t see my daughter,” she told Bangladeshi newspaper, The Daily Star. She couldn’t see her daughter’s face. He was arrested days after the attack. Doctors were able to reconstruct her face but they couldn’t restore her eyesight.
Her world was plunged in perpetual darkness. She underwent psychological counseling. Her story captured headlines and the world watched as she courageously recovered from her ordeal. A month after the attack she moved back to Vancouver with her daughter. Two years later she finished her Master’s degree and decided to pursue law.
On Wednesday, May 24, 2017, Rumana received her law degree. As she stood there, trying not to cry as she said goodbye to the University of British Columbia which had been her home and a source of solace and strength to her for seven years, she admitted to crying a lot during the first 18 months. It was a challenge not being able to read any more and having to be helped around the campus. But she soon realized that she just had to keep going and what encouraged her was how nice the people on campus were toward her.
As a little girl, Rumana had dreams of becoming a pilot which for her would have been very liberating and free. However, she chose, instead rising sea levels and environmentalism as her field of study because Bangladesh, more than most places, is at risk from climate change. Then, her world changed in 2011 when she returned to Dhaka to tell her husband, Syeed Hasan Sumon that she wanted a divorce. He reacted by trying to rip her eyes out with his hands, biting off the end of her nose and ripping flesh off of her cheeks and one arm. He told her, “I wanted to kill you with acid, but good for you I couldn’t find any.” He died in custody of an apparent heart attack six months after the vicious assault while awaiting trial for attempted murder.
Why didn’t Rumana leave this abusive marriage earlier? She explained why in an interview. “It is hard to have the courage to stand up to social norms, social stigma,” she said. “That mindset that if we talked about it it’s shameful for yourself, it’s not at all like that. I thought like that too, that if I share it with anyone it’s a shame for myself. I wanted to look like I was happy in my marriage, that made me socially acceptable, that’s what I thought.” It is truly sad when the abused feels shame when it should be the abuser who should.
Rumana wants the women in abusive relationships to know that they have options. “The power has to come from within. I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself for a long, long time, and look how I ended up, right? I paid a huge price. I want them to know their lives are precious and they should not accept something which deteriorates their capacity and potential. Life is full of opportunities, they need to know there is always a way out of those abusive and brutal relationships, it’s not their fate. Not only women — men, children and elderly people, violence is not something worth tolerating, you need to get out of it as soon as possible.”
It is my hope and prayer that women in abusive relationships will leave the first opportunity they get to do so. No marriage or relationship is worth risking your life for. As the Bible says, women are created in God’s image and are of great value to Him. A woman was meant to be a man’s companion, helper, supporter, etc. to be loved and appreciated. She is not to be trampled on, abused, mistreated, neglected, discarded or devalued. And success is not supposed to be gender bias. Success comes from the Lord and it is for everyone. It takes a special kind of man who wouldn’t feel threatened by his wife’s success and aspirations but will offer her his complete support.
What kept Rumana going after she was blinded and brutalized? “What I told myself is, ‘You have three options now,’ ” she said with a smile. “I told myself, ‘You just fell in the garbage, what can you do now?’ Either I can stay there, or I can try to stand up slowly, or I can stand up as quickly as possible and start to move forward. As you can see, the last option was the most acceptable and so I chose that. I didn’t want to stay in that garbage. I didn’t want to lose hope.”
Kudos to Rumana for her courage and her determination not to remain down but to stand up quickly and move forward. She wrote the exam for law when everyone thought she was crazy for doing that and today, she’s a lawyer with the federal Justice Department. You have to admire the tenacity of this phenomenal woman.