A stunning Vogue cover model has been murdered by Muslim fundamentalists in Bangladesh because she didn’t wear Islamic clothing, her family says.
Rauda Athif, 21, a Muslim Maldivian woman who was featured on the cover of Vogue India in October, was a second-year student at Islami Bank Medical College in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. She was found hanged in her dorm room on March 29.
The Bangladesh government performed an autopsy and ruled her death a suicide. Rauda was buried Saturday.
But her brother, Rayyan Athif, said the model was actually murdered, and the killing was staged to appear as a suicide. He told the U.K. Sun Thursday that Muslim extremists killed his sister. Rayyan said the extremists were angry after she defended people who were bullied over their religious beliefs.
“There have been a series of murders in Bangladesh which have been staged to look like suicides, and Islamic extremists have been suspected to be behind these atrocities,” he said.
Just two hours away, in Dhaka, atheist blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death by Muslim fundamentalists with machetes on the campus of Dhaka University in 2015. After a recent visit to her homeland of Bangladesh, New York Times contributor Lipika Pelham wrote: “Looking around, I realized that most women were covered in black burqas or hijabs — a style that I had seen in such large numbers only in the Middle East. Many of their male companions wore long white dishdashas and skullcaps.”
It happened again in 2016: An English professor at Rajshahi University was murdered by Islamic militants wielding machetes after he was accused of “calling to atheism.”
At the Islamic school in Rajshahi, Rayyan explained: “[Rauda’s] style of clothing was branded as ‘immodest’ and ‘un-Islamic’ even though she adhered to the dress code in the college premises by wearing a veil covering her face.”
“But she was criticized for wearing jeans and was repeatedly told she couldn’t wear it at the Muslim college – which has a lot of extremist connections and support. Other students have also been subjected to this type of bullying.”
Dr. Mohamed Athif, Rauda’s father, tweeted: “Maldivian medical student and my daughter Raudha Athif did not commit suicide. She was murdered at her hostel room. I’ve the facts.”
Several weeks before she was found dead, Rayyan said, the girl told her family that somebody spiked her drink with sleeping pills.
Rauda’s family said she was found with marks on her neck, but the autopsy claimed they were only birthmarks.
Amin Hossain, assistant commissioner of Bangladesh’s Rajshahi Metropolitan Police detective branch, told the Dhaka Tribune there is a “50 percent chance that she did not commit suicide.”
Rauda “always looked happy,” according to Mahmuda Begum, superintendent of the women’s dorm. Begum said, “It is hard to believe she would commit suicide.”
Begum recalled the moment Rauda’s body was found.
“‘I was in my chamber. Suddenly, I heard screams of my students,” she said. “Rushing to the second floor of this six-story building, I saw some of the students trying to break the door of Athif’s room.”
The students eventually managed to break into the room.
Rauda was known as the “Maldivian Girl With Aqua Blue Eyes” after the photographer Sotti took striking photographs of the model. The former president of the Maldives praised her beauty on social media, and Rauda became an online sensation in 2014.
Then, last year, she made the cover of Vogue India while she continued her studies.
“Modeling is a hobby rather than a career for me, since I’m studying to become a doctor,” she told the fashion magazine at the time.