The survivor of the gang-rape in Noakhali was previously raped multiple times at gunpoint by prime accused Delwar Hossain, the National Human Rights Commission found after visiting the woman yesterday.
“Whenever the woman protested or refused, she was threatened with gang-rape by his whole team of ‘Delwar Bahini’,” said Al Mahmud Faizul Kabir, the director of investigation at NHRC, while briefing journalists at the Noakhali Chief Judicial Magistrate Court’s auditorium in the afternoon.
“One and a half years ago Delwar first entered her house and threatened her with weapons. He proceeded to rape her, and when she screamed, he threatened to gang-rape and murder her,” he said.
“A few days later the woman was taken out to a remote lake on a boat by Delwar and his colleague Kalam. They both tried to rape her, and she fell to Kalam’s feet for mercy. He let her go, but Delwar proceeded to rape her inside the boat. Since then Delwar has attempted to rape her several times, and failed, leading him to become enraged,” said Kabir.
The Noakhali district woman and children affairs’ department’s deputy director Kamrun Nahar was present during the interview of the survivor.
The video of the incident that took place on September 2 was released on social media on Sunday, triggering outrage.
At one point in the video that went viral, one of the men torturing the survivor is heard accusing her of “distributing her body” while the woman fervently denied the allegation. The new findings by NHRC puts this exchange into context by showing that the men not only sexually abused her over the year, but also felt that they were entitled to her body, as if she was property.
Kabir told journalists that the survivor will also file a rape case with the court, and additionally give her statement to the court. The case will be represented by Advocate Jafar Uddin Babul.
“We will create a report of our findings and submit it to the NHRC chairman,” said Kabir.
Officer-in-Charge Begumganj Model Police Station Harunur Rashid Chowdhury said he was not aware that the victim has been repeatedly raped by the accused. “She did not tell me, nor did she tell the magistrate on Monday [the day after the video footage went viral]. I only learnt of this when NHRC told me,” he said.
Rapid Action Batallion-11 officials told our correspondent that upon interrogating the accused rapists, they found that the video was released through social media because the survivor refused to agree to their proposals for sex.
“Delwar had a gun on him, which is illegal. There are two existing murder charges against him. He will be transferred to Shiddhirganj police station for further interrogation, while his accomplice Badal will be sent to Begumganj Police Station,” said Rab-11 commanding officer Saiful Alam.
VIDEO KEEPS CIRCULATING
Meanwhile, more than 24 hours after the High Court instructed Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to ensure that the video is taken down from websites and social media, the video is still available through a simple search.
Among others sharing the video, social media vloggers and online portals actively continued to include the video in their own video content in a misguided approach to raise awareness about rape. Some blurred out the entire video, some blurred out the survivor’s body but kept the face unblurred, some trimmed the video to only keep certain sections and others zoomed out the video to make it less visible — but none of that alters the reality that it is a video of a violent rape.
BTRC Director General of Systems and Services Division Brigadier General Md Mustafa Kamal said they are actively taking down links as they see them, but more keep cropping up.
“We identified 17 links and reported them to authorities and we are still actively on the lookout for more. If anyone finds any link with the video and refers the link to us, we will take action,” he said.
As the video continues to crop up faster than it can be taken down, the survivor hides to protect herself and her family.
She is a mother with a married daughter and a teenage son.
“My life is already ruined. I am now worried about my children, especially my daughter. I cannot bear the thought that my daughter’s in-laws have seen the video. What are they thinking? What if they take it out on my daughter and throw her out?” she told our correspondent.
Our Noakhali correspondent’s personal office is in a computer market in Maizdee Old Bus Stand area. Over the last two days he has witnessed how the video spread over the whole market. It was played and replayed in public on computer screens as everyone crowded to perceive first-hand the horror inflicted on the woman.
“Bhaiya, do you have the video? I had it but it got deleted… I wanted to show it to someone,” said a computer businessman, approaching our correspondent, who declined to entertain the request.
Snippets of conversation overheard on the street also attest to how widespread the video has become. Two elderly men out on their evening stroll complained to each other, “The video keeps popping up on my mobile phone. This is so awkward, especially in front of the wife and kids…”
Not only is the survivor hiding away from her village, but so is her family. Her father used to run a tea-store in the area, and that too has its shutters down, reported our correspondent.