Canadian police say hijab-cutting incident did not happen

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Khawlah Noman, 11, speaks to reporters with her mother at Pauline Johnson Junior Public School, after she told police that a man cut her hijab with scissors in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 12, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
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Khawlah Noman, 11, speaks to reporters at Pauline Johnson Junior Public School, after she told police that a man cut her hijab with scissors in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on January 12, 2018. (REUTERS/Chris Helgren)
Updated 15 January 2018
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Canadian police say hijab-cutting incident did not happen

TORONTO: Toronto police are disputing an 11-year-old girl’s claim that her hijab was cut by a scissors-wielding man as she walked to school last week.
Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said Monday an extensive investigation was conducted and police concluded it did not happen.
The sixth-grader, her mother and her younger brother held a news conference at her school on Friday and Khawlah Noman said she was walking to school with her younger brother when a man came up behind her, pulled off her jacket hood and started cutting the bottom of her hijab. She said she turned around, screamed and the man ran away. She also said the man returned a short time later and continued to cut her hijab from behind before he smiled and ran away.
Her mother called on police to treat it as a hate crime.
The story made international headlines and drew public condemnation from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“It’s something that received, quite understandably, a lot of media and social media attention and I know it caused significant concern, as it should,” Pugash said.
Pugash declined to say whether the girl acknowledged it didn’t happen. He said police wouldn’t take a step like this unless they were absolutely confident.
“It is absolutely unusual,” Pugash said.
Ryan Bird, a spokesman for the Toronto District School Board, said officials are “very thankful” that the alleged assault did not in fact happen.
The school declined further comment.


Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

Updated 1 min 38 sec ago
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Protests in Bangladesh after girl is burned to death

  • Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas
  • The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative nation of 160 million people where sexual harassment and violence are often unreported

DHAKA, Bangladesh: Dozens of protesters gathered in Bangladesh’s capital on Friday to demand justice for an 18-year-old woman who died after being set on fire for refusing to drop sexual harassment charges against her Islamic school’s principal.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi told her family she was lured to the roof of her rural school in the town of Feni on April 6 and asked to withdraw the charges by five people clad in burqas. When she refused, she said her hands were tied and she was doused in kerosene and set alight.
Rafi told the story to her brother in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and he recorded her testimony on his mobile phone. She died four days later in a Dhaka hospital with burns covering 80% of her body.
The violence has shaken Bangladesh, triggering protests and raising concerns over the plight of women and girls in the conservative Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people where sexual harassment and violence are often unreported, victims are intimidated and the legal process is often lengthy. Many avoid reporting to police because of social stigma.
“We want justice. Our girls must grow up safely and with dignity,” Alisha Pradhan, a model and actress, told The Associated Press during Friday’s demonstration. “We protest any forms of violence against women, and authorities must ensure justice.”
Tens of thousands of people attended Rafi’s funeral prayers in Feni, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised Rafi’s family when they met in Dhaka that those responsible would be punished.
At least 17 people, including students, have been arrested in connection with the case, said Banaj Kumar Majumder, the head of the Police Bureau of Investigation.
In late March, Rafi filed a complaint with police that the principal of her madrasa, or Islamic school, had called her into his office and touched her inappropriately and repeatedly. Her family agreed to help her to file the police complaint, which prompted police to arrest the principal, infuriating him and his supporters. Influential local politicians backed the principal, and ruling party members were also among the arrested.
Police said the arrested suspects told them during interrogations that the attack on Rafi was planned and ordered by the school’s principal from prison when his men went to see him. It was timed for daytime so that it would look like a suicide attempt, Majumder said.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Rafi’s family said that they had received death threats before the attack telling them to drop the case.
While Rafi’s case is now being treated with urgency, that wasn’t the case until her death.
A video taken on March 27 while Rafi reported the assault shows the local police chief registering her complaint but telling her that the incident was “not a big deal.” The chief was later removed from the police station for negligence in dealing with the case.
For Bangladeshi women, it is often not easy to file sensitive complaints with police. Victims often fear further harassment and bullying. Police also often show an unwillingness to investigate such cases and are often accused of being influenced by local politics or bribes.
But the call for dealing with violence against women, especially related to sexual harassment and assault, is also getting louder.
“The horrifying murder of a brave woman who sought justice shows how badly the Bangladesh government has failed victims of sexual assault,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Nusrat Jahan Rafi’s death highlights the need for the Bangladesh government to take survivors of sexual assault seriously and ensure that they can safely seek a legal remedy and be protected from retaliation.”