Friday, July 20, 2012
The War Heroine Speaks: A Special Series on Women & Bangladesh’s Independence War
In May, an interview with an Australian doctor, who performed late-term abortions on Bangladeshi rape victims from the 1971 War of Independence, came to my attention. The more I read, and the more I researched online, I found countless testimonies, and even old news footage, providing evidence to what Bangladeshis already know, but many still dispute: During Bangladesh’s liberation struggle, a genocide occurred.
Alongside the systematic murder of our intellectuals, a campaign of rape and terror targeted the women and girls of then
East Pakistan to tear away the very fabric of Bangladeshi
When I wrote my piece, “,” I thought I was providing closure to Bangladeshis on a violent and gruesome chapter of our past. I cannot even count the amount of mail and comments this piece of generated, namely from other fellow Bangladeshis. But it was one email that led to the revisiting not only of the stories of the rape survivors of 1971, but to the overall representation of Bangladeshi women in the war that gave birth to our country.
In 2009, while visiting Bangladesh, Dr. Nusrat Rabbee, an expert in biomarker development in the biotechnology industry, and a graduate of Wellesley College, Harvard University and UC Berkeley, was gifted the book “” (The War Heroine Speaks).
The book contained a compilation of stories of Bangladeshi women during the 1971 War of Independence by Dr. Nilima Ibrahim. Dr. Nusrat Rabbee’s father, , an eminent Bangladeshi cardiologist, humanist and scholar, was martyred in the infamous intellectual extermination by the Pakistani army. She herself is a survivor of the war.
Dr. Rabbee got in touch with me after the publication of my article in . After a series of emails, and a friendship which ensued between us, we decided the next generation of Bangladeshis must know not only the truth of our history, of the war that gave birth to Bangladesh in 1971, but of the role women played in this struggle, as both fighters and supporters of the war, but also as sacrificial lambs.
is Bengali for “the blameless ones.” It is the title given to the roughly 400,000 women who were raped during the war by the Pakistani army by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Father of Bangladesh, in an effort to respectfully reintegrate them back into society.
Unfortunately, the gesture failed. Rape survivors in post-liberation
were shunned by society, and the word became
synonymous with dishonored and violated women, accepted as spoils of the 1971
Below is the fruit of the tireless efforts of Dr. Nusrat Rabbee, who, with the editing help of childhood friend, Shehzia Huq, painstakingly spent years translating Dr. Nilima Ibrahim’s book, “, precedes the series of war heroine narratives. Please note for the sake of space, these narratives have been shortened by me.” (The War Heroine Speaks). A biography of her father, the late
I am honored to feature the series on
and beyond., and hope the narratives contribute to
the vibrant women’s rights movement in Bangladesh
The doctor assured me of help and then called a nurse to cut and wash my hair. He said that my long hair was tangled in dreads and I probably had infection on the scalp too. He asked her to gently take care of me. I washed up and laughed when I looked at the short haircut. I used to have really long hair. I remembered when one day Hasnat decided to make a bun out of my hair. He fought with the comb, brush and hair and stopped after tearing a bunch of my hair. It hurt my head just thinking of that day. Would he get mad to see my new bob cut hair or would he tease me for it? I smiled to myself. Ten days later my abortion was done. I was at the end of my first trimester. If it were a few more days, the monsters would’ve come to know and what would they have done to me then? I screamed in fear from the thought and the nurse came running to me to ask what happened. I wiped my tears and said that it was nothing. After seven days of resting, I left for home. I was given some money as soon as I asked for it and was told to return if I failed to find my way home. They would make arrangements for me. I got off the rickshaw in front of my house but nobody even looked at me. I knocked on the front door. My mother-in-law looked at me for a moment after opening the door then held me in a tight embrace and started to cry.
First published in July 17, 2012,
Bangladeshi-born Anushay Hossain is an author, commentator, writer and activist based in
. She founded Anushay’s Point
in 2009, and her work is regularly featured on Forbes Woman, Huffington Post,
The International Herald Tribune, Ms. Magazine, National Public Radio (NPR),
and the Washington Examiner. Website: www.AnushaysPoint.com Follow me on
Twitter @AnushaysPoint Washington,