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Vicious attack in Bangladesh leaves UBC student blind; husband arrested

In this image taken from a Bangladesh newscast, Rumana Monzur speaks to reporters from her hospital bed.

A University of British Columbia student has been blinded after being savagely attacked while visiting her family in Bangladesh.

Rumana Monzur's eyes were gouged and part of her nose was bitten off. Her husband, Hassan Syeed, was arrested 10 days later.

"He has made my world dark. I can't see my daughter," she told reporters in Dhaka, according to The Daily Star newspaper.

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Ms. Monzur's father, Monzur Hussain, said she is in hospital in the Bangladeshi capital awaiting plastic surgery to rebuild her nose with family members by her side.

It's "a difficult time," he told The Globe and Mail.

Ms. Monzur's commitment to her studies is said to have been a factor in the attack, UBC president Stephen Toope said.

"This tragic occasion is a poignant marker of the need to work to protect the fundamental human right of all women to pursue education," he said in a statement.

Bangladeshi media reports say Ms. Monzur's husband also suspected her of having an affair with a fellow graduate student.

With her eyes swollen and nose bandaged, an emotional Ms. Monzur spoke to reporters from her hospital bed to describe what happened and defend herself. Much of the coverage in the Bangladeshi media has focused on her rebuttals of the allegations - as if infidelity would have justified the beating.

After the brutal June 5 attack, Ms. Monzur's family took her to India to see if her eyesight could be saved. However, doctors at two hospitals concluded that no further treatment was possible.

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Mr. Hussain said the family has sent her medical reports to hospitals in North America in the hope that doctors there might help restore her sight.

"If they are ready to give her medical treatment, we are ready to fly there," he said.

Ms. Monzur, who is 33 and was taking a master's degree in political science at UBC, is also an assistant professor in Dhaka University's international-relations department. Her family stayed in Dhaka after she enrolled at UBC last fall.

In an open letter from Bangladeshi students and families in Vancouver, Ms. Monzur is described as a brilliant student, an excellent cook and a devout Muslim. She also missed her family terribly, her friends said, speaking to them often and using Skype to teach her five-year-old daughter how to draw flowers.

"It is such a pain to observe that Rumana only went back to her family to lose the most precious gift from The Almighty, her eyesight," the statement says.

"We feel that it is our duty to take a very strong stance against any kind of accusation that may come on our dear friend Rumana. It is our ardent request not to put this unfortunate woman, a brilliant Bangladeshi scholar, on the guillotine of character assassination."

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Ms. Monzur's colleagues are collecting donations and a rally is being organized for Sunday in Vancouver.

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Latin America Bureau Chief

Stephanie Nolen is the Latin America correspondent for The Globe and Mail. After years as a roving correspondent that included coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Stephanie moved to Johannesburg in 2003 to open a new bureau for The Globe, to report on what she believed was the world's biggest uncovered story, Africa's AIDS pandemic. More

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