She was the first woman to publicly announce herself as a Birangana, a term coined by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for the rape victims of the 1971 Liberation War
Freedom fighter and renowned sculptor Ferdousi Priyabhashini passed away at a hospital in Dhaka Tuesday afternoon, two weeks after suffering a heart attack.
The 71-year-old’s grief-stricken daughter, Fuleshwari Priyanandini, confirmed the news that her mother had died at Labaid Specialized Hospital at Dhanmondi.
Ferdousi had suffered a string of health complications in the final months of her life.
In November 2017, the mother of six was admitted to Labaid hospital after slipping in her bathroom and suffering an ankle injury, while later that month a pacemaker was also implanted in her chest after she suffered a cardiac arrest.
She was admitted to the hospital for the final time on February 23, following a heart attack.
Saifur Rahman Lenin, assistant general manager of Labaid Group’s corporate communication, said Ferdousi lost her fight for life around 12:45pm after suffering another cardiac arrest.
“She was also suffering from renal and lungs diseases and other old-age complications,” he said. These included diabetes and high blood pressure, and liver, urine and thyroid related complications.
Many cultural personalities and rights activists thronged the hospital and her home after hearing the news of her death on Tuesday.
In a condolence message, President Md Abdul Hamid expressed his “profound shock and sorrow” at the death of Ferdousi, and also prayed for “the eternal peace of the departed soul,” reports BSS.
“The nation will always remember her contributions to the Liberation War,” Hamid said.
In a separate message, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her own “deep shock and sorrow” at Ferdousi’s death, and recalled her “outstanding contributions to the war,” reports UNB.
“With her demise, the nation has lost a valiant freedom fighter. Her death is an irreparable loss to the field of sculptor,” Sheikh Hasina said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Ferdousi’s mortal remains were taken to the home of Fuleshwari in Bashundhara Pink City so that family members could pay their respects.
“After the first namaz-e-janaza at a mosque there in the evening, the body was taken back to Labaid hospital mortuary where it will be kept overnight,” her son, Karu Titas, said.
Ferdousi’s two other sons are due to arrive in Bangladesh from Australia and Canada on Wednesday.
Quoting family members, Jatiya Kabita Parishad President and poet Abdus Samad said Ferdousi’s body would be held at the Central Shaheed Minar for one hour from 11am on Thursday to allow people from all strata of life to pay tribute.
Another janaza would be held at the Dhaka University Central Mosque after the Zohr prayers, before Ferdousi is buried in the grave of her uncle Nazim Mahmud at the Intellectual Martyred Intellectuals’ Graveyard at Mirpur Thursday afternoon, said Samad.
From torture to sculpture
Born in 1947 in Khulna, Ferdousi suffered inhumane torture by the Pakistani occupation forces during the 1971 Liberation War. Aged 23 at that time, she was freed near the end of the war.
She was the first woman to publicly announce herself as a Birangana, a term coined by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for the rape victims of the war.
Ferdousi began a career as a school teacher in 1977 before she became better known as one of the top sculptors of the country for creating home decoration pieces and other crafts using dry leaves, tree branches, logs, bamboos and other natural elements.
Ferdousi remained vocal in her calls for the anti-liberation forces to face trial and for the women who endured torture in captivity during the war to be recognized as freedom fighters.
She was recognized as a “HERO” by Reader’s Digest magazine in 2004, and also received the Chadernath Padak, Ananya Shirsho Dosh Padak, and the Silver Jubilee Award by YWCA, and the Human Rights Award by Manabadhikar Sangstha.
For her efforts, Ferdousi received the highest state honour – Swadhinata Padak (Independence Award) – in 2010, but she had to wait until 2016 before the government finally awarded her the status of a freedom fighter.
Sections of this article were first published on banglatribune.com