06/27/2011 10:49 EDT | Updated 08/27/2011 05:12 EDT

Rumana Monzur: Rally Held To Raise Awareness of Domestic Abuse


CBC -- Organizers of a rally in honour of a UBC student allegedly beaten and blinded by her husband during an attack in Bangladesh hope the event will help raise awareness of domestic violence.

Rumana Monzur, 33, was visiting her daughter and husband in Dhaka earlier this month when her husband allegedly gouged out her eyes and gnawed her nose.

Monzur's family said the woman's left eye has been completely damaged, and the other is not responding to light.

"This is not a problem which is limited to Rumana," said UBC doctoral student Mohsen Seddigh, who helped organize the rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday.

"It's happening all over the world and a lot of women are being subjected, right now as we're speaking, there are women being subjected to unbelievable violence for no good reason other than the fact that they are women."

Monzur is an assistant professor of international relations at Dhaka University and a Fulbright scholar and graduate student in political science at the University of B.C.

She is now being treated at a hospital in Bangladesh, where doctors are trying to protect her eyes from infection. Her family is working to find a specialist who can restore her sight.

"Rumana is a friend of ours, she's a member of our community, the UBC community," Seddigh said.

"She's a great person, and she's a woman and a mother so we have been all appalled by the atrocity of this thing that has happened to her and that's why we've decided not to just stand by and watch it happen or watch her suffer."

Monzur's story is all too familiar to Gurjeet Dhahan — formerly Gurjeet Kaur Ghuman — who was blinded after being shot twice in the head by her estranged husband in Port Coquitlam in 2006. Her husband, Parmajit Singh Ghuman, then killed himself.

Dhahan has since changed her last name.

Rumana Monzur is a postgraduate student at UBC, where officials still hope she can finish her degree. (UBC)

Dhahan, who is now blind, said if she could speak to Monzur — her message would be one of hope.

"First I would give her a big hug and I would tell her, 'If we can do this, we're still here, and if we're still here, there's a way of life we have to change, which we can. So don't ever feel to yourself that you can't. You can.'"

Dhahan's recovery has been due in large part to the work of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.

The institute's Vancouver branch has offered its services should Monzur return to finish her studies.

In addition, a number of fundraising efforts are underway for Monzur, including a website where supporters can make donations to help her.

The "Help Rumana" website says donations to help pay for her recovery will be delivered to her later this month.

Monzur's husband, Hasan Sayeed Sumon, is facing charges of attempted murder.