British Columbia

UBC student blinded by domestic attack graduates from law school

As Rumana Monzur was guided to the podium to give a speech to law graduates at the University of British Columbia Wednesday, a hush fell over the crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered at the Chan Shun Concert Hall.

'UBC gave me direction when I was lost,' Rumana Monzur tells assembly

Rumana Monzur receives a standing ovation following her speech to fellow law school graduates and faculty at the University of British Columbia.

As Rumana Monzur was guided to the podium to give a speech to fellow law graduates at the University of British Columbia, a hush fell over the crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered at the Chan Shun Concert Hall.

Monzur had come a long way since she was savagely attacked by her then-husband in Bangladesh on a visit home in 2011. He gouged out her eyes, permanently blinding her.

But Monzur, 38, persevered, returning to Canada to continue her studies. Two years later, she started law studies at UBC.

On Wednesday, she graduated from the Peter A. Allard School of Law.

"As a result of this horrendous attack, and life-threatening attack, I became blind. I never saw the world again," Monzur told the assembly, which included her 11-year-old daughter.

Rumana Monzur lies in hospital bed after she was attacked by her husband in 2011.

Monzur spared the audience the graphic details of her husband's attack: how her husband not only gouged her eyes, but bit off the tip of her nose as their daughter watched.

The attack was sparked after her husband grew enraged because Monzur had told him she'd be returning to Canada to continue her education. At the time, she was taking a master's at UBC.

Monzur made international headlines when she spoke about the attack from her hospital bed.

When she returned to Canada with her daughter, she learned her husband had been caught and had died of a heart attack while awaiting trial.

'UBC gave me direction'

In her speech, Monzur said many people at the university helped her after the attack.

"UBC gave me direction when I was lost," she said in her speech.

"It would not be possible for me to get through law school without the support of my UBC family."

One person Monzur thanked in particular was Catherine Dauvergne, dean of the Allard School of Law.

"It was exciting this morning. I cried," Dauvergne said after the ceremony as she praised Monzur. "She's very unique, she's forged her own path forward, and I can't think of another person who could've done it in the same way."

Outside the concert hall, Monzur embraced the students she'd come to know over the course of the program.

Rumana Monzur celebrates with a classmate following their graduation ceremony.

Many of her classmates dedicated their time to guide her to class or help her find her professors' offices.

"She is a student who's made a very strong impression on her classmates," said Dauvergne.

"I think she probably knows the name of everyone in her graduating class."

Monzur completed her degree with the help of specialized computer programs and volunteer student services designed to help blind people study.

Rumana Monzur holds her diploma from the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC.

In September, she begins articling at an international law firm in Vancouver. Monzur hasn't decided what kind of law she wants to pursue.

She's focused on her future, empowered by a new outlook on the attack that changed her life six years ago.

"I've gained a perspective.... I actually feel that I have lost my sight but I have gained vision. I feel different people have different challenges and this is my challenge," she told CBC's On the Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"The important thing for me is how you face your challenges, and I want to do it with a smiling face."

With files from CBC's Briar Stewart