Nearly four months after being set on fire by her in-laws, 19-year-old Rihana Sheikh Dhapali of Banke
is finally showing signs of recovery. On Wednesday she was given a two-week leave from Bir Hospital to go back and visit her parents in Banke on the condition that she would return to Kathmandu for further treatment.
“She is homesick and has been a victim of domestic violence. Being with her parents for some time will help her heal mentally,” says Piyush Dahal chief of the Burns Unit at Bir Hospital. According to Dahal, her treatment is nearly over but there are still some patches on her leg where additional surgery is needed.
Rihana had been requesting doctors to allow her to return home. Nurses said she would act like a child when asked to eat or take part in physiotherapy. Before heading to Banke on Wednesday, she was so upbeat that she even took a few steps without her walker.
Rihana now plans to open up a shop so that she can help her poor parents and younger siblings with their studies. She wants to live independent of her husband Farid Sheikh and his family, who are believed to be hiding across the border in India where they have relatives.
“I am never going back to them,” she says. “They’ll burn me again if I do.”
Rihanna was married last year and was seven months pregnant when Farid and his mother set her on fire on 17 March for not bringing enough dowry. Although she sustained severe burns over the lower part of her body, Rihana was locked up in her room and not taken to hospital for three days.
When her condition worsened, Farid took her to a hospital in Bahraich in India, threatening her not to tell the doctors what happened. Later, she was brought back to Bheri Zonal Hospital in Nepalganj by her father Samim Sheikh Dhapali. But as her health deteriorated, Rihana lost her baby and had to be brought to Kathmandu for treatment.
“My husband and in-laws left me to die”