As It Happens

A B.C. woman's new life after husband's attack that blinded her five years ago

In 2011, Rumana Monzur was permanently blinded after her husband viciously attacked her. Now a law student at the University of British Columbia, Monzur will deliver the keynote speech at a Big Sisters event in Vancouver Thursday.
Rumana Monzur (Tina Lovgreen/CBC )

WARNING: This interview contains disturbing descriptions that may be upsetting to some listeners.

If you heard about it then, you will remember the story.

In 2011, while Rumana Monzur was visiting family in her home country of Bangladesh, her husband viciously attacked her. The assault left her permanently blind.

The University of British Columbia student made headlines when she spoke out about the attack from her hospital bed. 

Years later, Monzur is still telling her story in an effort to raise awareness about domestic abuse. Tomorrow, she will deliver the keynote speech at the annual Big Sisters Spring Lunch in Vancouver.

(Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

On Wednesday, Monzur spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off about the attack — and her long and difficult journey of recovery since.

"I was in my parents' bedroom. The cook actually let him in. And I didn't know that he was coming. Then he locked the door from inside. He dragged me onto the bed. When I realized his presence, it was too late.- Rumana Monzur, on the attack by her husband that left her permanently blind

"When I went back to Bangladesh, I was staying with my parents," she recalls. "I remember that day...my parents weren't home ... I think I was working on my thesis. And so my back was facing the bedroom door. The cook actually let [my husband] in. And I didn't know that he was coming. Then he locked the door from inside. He dragged me onto the bed. When I realized his presence, it was too late. First, he tried to strangle me. I was really trying to release myself. That's when he bit my forearm. I started bleeding and when I didn't stop ...he put both his fingers into my eyes. I kept struggling to release myself. But I couldn't. At one point I realized that I can't see anything anymore. And that's when I felt that his face was coming towards my face. I just didn't know what he was going to do. That's when he bit the tip off my nose."

Rumana Manzur is greeted by supporters shortly after her return to Canada from Bangladesh in 2011. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

If you try to think how a criminal works, you can never find an answer.- Rumana Monzur

Eventually, Monzur heard the bedroom door opening and then the screams of the family cook. Before her husband fled, he vowed that he would find her and kill her.

Monzur tells Carol she still can't understand what possibly motivated her husband to carry out such a vicious and cruel attack on her.

"I'm trying to find a reason since the day it happened," she says. "If you try to think how a criminal works, you can never find an answer. One thing I know, that before this, each time I talked about divorce he just apologized. He pleaded, said sorry, and then I gave him another chance — though we separated. But this time, when I didn't listen to him, I guess that's when he realized that this time it's not going to happen."

Rumana with her daughter, Anusheh. (Brenda Gershkovitch/Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland)

About a month after the attack, Monzur returned to Canada with her daughter. Monzur learned that her husband had been caught and put on trial. While in a prison hospital awaiting trial, he died of a heart attack.

Monzur credits her friends, family, and the university for the unwavering support they have shown her throughout her recovery.

"I can't say that I'm doing bad", she says of her life now. "I finished my Master's degree in political science in 2013. I decided to start law school. And now I'm working at an international law firm in downtown Vancouver. I will start my final year at law school in September."

(Tina Lovgreen/CBC )

Monzur says her work in raising awareness of victims of violence is not restricted to domestic violence, or to violence against women.

"My struggle and my campaign [is] against all forms of violence, against men, women, children, elderly people, everyone — because I know it's happening...all over the world. People need to know that they have alternatives. They can still dream for a better life."

To hear more of Rumana Monzur's story, take a listen to the full interview above. 

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