The family of the Maldivian model who was found dead in Bangladesh in a suspected suicide believe she was murdered by extremists in the country.
Raudha Athif, 20, who was featured on the cover of Vogue India, was studying medicine at Islami Bank Medical College in Rajshahi, when she was reportedly found hanged in her dorm room on March 29.
Her body was discovered by horrified students living in the women-only hostel of the medical college before police arrived at the scene, according to Bangladesh’s The Daily Star.
The superintendent at the hostel said that Raudha “always looked happy” and that it was “hard to believe she would commit suicide.”
Raudha’s father, Mohammed Athif, a doctor, also expressed disbelief that it was a suicide.
Her brother Rayyan Athif, 18, believes his sister was murdered and her death was staged as a suicide.
Speaking to The Sun Online, Rayyan said: “Raudha was a happy girl with a bright future and a promising career ahead of her. She was friendly, light-hearted and full of life. Her friends and family find it impossible to believe that she would take her own life.
“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 believes Raudha, who was a Muslim, was targeted because she was a public figure who defended victims bullied over religious controversies.
Rayyan said: “Raudha was a strong woman, she would not back down and stood up for herself and for others. It could have made extremists boil up inside with anger.
“Her 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 criticised 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.”
Rayyan also claims Raudha told the family someone mixed sleeping tablets in her drink just weeks before her death.
An autopsy report, conducted by three doctors at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital, ruled Raudha’s death as suicide shortly after she was buried on Saturday. Her family have rejected it.
Her brother Rayann claims: “In their first report, it said that there were strangulation marks, but they later dismissed it saying they were ‘birthmarks.’ But she does not have a birthmark on her neck.
“We’ve seen her bruised body, her tightly-held fists and hand marks on her neck as if somebody strangled her. When we raised these issue with the police, they dismissed it.”
According to police reports, students who discovered Raudha’s body broke into her room which was locked from the inside.
But her family have disputed this, claiming there was no evidence of a forced entry.
Rayann said: “We went inside Raudha’s room and checked the locks on the door — there was no sign of a break-in — no cracks, dents on the door.
“Authorities said students banged on the door and the two locks of the door just slipped down but that’s not possible. We demonstrated it. We banged on the door and the locks didn’t move an inch. I would love an explanation for this.”
Maldivian police officials this week met with Bangladesh’s Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) and the medical college authorities following speculation surrounding the model’s death.
They also visited Raudha’s room at the women’s dorm, checking the doors, windows and contents inside the room.
Amin Hossain, assistant commissioner of RMP Detective Branch, was quoted in Dhaka Tribune as saying: “There is a 50 percent chance that she did not commit suicide.”
He said her mobile phone and laptop have been sent to the Criminal Investigation Department in Dhaka for analysis.
How sad. She should have never been in Bangladesh.