Blinded UBC student finishes thesis, heads to law school
Published Wednesday, July 10, 2013 4:09PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 10, 2013 7:58PM PDT
What a difference two years can make.
Blinded in June 2011 in a brutal assault by her former husband, University of British Columbia student Rumana Monzur has turned her life around and she’s set to mark two major milestones.
The mother of a seven-year-old girl, Anusheh, just successfully defended her Master’s thesis in front of a small group of family and friends.
The scholar has also just been accepted to the law school at UBC, a step she hopes will help other victims of violence find justice.
Monzur, 35, was the subject of international headlines and rallies after being attacked while visiting family in Bangladesh.
She said if you told her two years ago that she would have gone on to finish her degree she would have laughed – or cried.
“I didn’t even know if I was going to survive,” she told CTV News. “I was going through all sorts of craziness, stress trying to bring my husband to justice.”
Hassan Sayeed was charged with attempted murder, accused of gouging his wife’s eyes and biting her throat and nose during a fight about her Canadian studies. The attack happened in front of their young daughter.
When doctors in India and Bangladesh said there was nothing more that could be done to save her sight, friends and UBC staff made arrangements for her to be rushed back to Vancouver for treatment.
She underwent four medical procedures on her eyes, but none restored her sight. She also underwent reconstructive surgery on her nose, which had partially been bitten off.
More than $95,000 in donations flooded in from around the world to pay for medical and living expenses, including bringing her daughter and parents to live with her in British Columbia.
The student said she wouldn’t have been able to complete her thesis, which discusses climate changes facing her home country of Bangladesh, without her friends and helpful staff at the university.
Staff at Crane Library converted all of the articles she needed for her thesis into audio form, while volunteers and friends took turns recording themselves reading her textbooks and coursework.
From her on-campus residence at St. John’s College, she would then dictate her notes into audio files, and others would help with editing, typing and formatting her work.
Monzur said the hardest thing about being blind is not being able to see daughter, who has slowly adjusted to interacting with a blind mom.
“She has become the best describer. She describes colours beautifully. It’s a learning process not only for me but for my parents and daughter as well,” Monzur said.
Monzur says going blind forced her to start fresh in her life and learn a completely new way to live.
“I was always very independent so depending on people to do things that you used to do so easily was a challenge,” she said.
But it appears Monzur is not only coping with blindness, but thriving – now taking on new challenges she feels are crucial to regaining her confidence.
That includes enrolling in acrobatic yoga, a challenging test of balance, flexibility and strength. Working with a partner at the base, the student will be hoisted into the air, floating above them.
She enrolled in the class on a dare from friends, but now says it’s one of the most rewarding things she’s ever experienced.
“I found interest in it because it’s the only time I forgot that I couldn’t see,” she said. “And that helped me. The amount of focus and concentration you need to balance it just takes everything away from your mind.”
Monzur will enter UBC’s Faculty of Law this September. Buoyed by her own experience fighting her former husband in the Bangladeshi legal system, she believes she can make a difference in the lives of marginalized women.
“I want to be their voice,” she said. “I want them to find justice.”
Her husband died of cardiac arrest in December 2011, while he was awaiting trial.