Three students from U.S. universities — one from UC Berkeley — among Dhaka attack victims
Teens who had once shared classes at the little school in Dhaka had scattered across the globe since graduation, many studying at universities far from Bangladesh.
But when three former classmates were slain in a Dhaka restaurant, victims of armed extremists who had taken hostages at an old hangout, the far-flung community swiftly joined across borders to mourn.
“All over the world, from continent to continent, we are all hurting together for the lives and families forever changed by yesterday’s event,” Samanee Mahbub wrote on Facebook on Saturday.
Mahbub, who graduated from the small, tightly knit Dhaka school two years ago and now studies at Brown University, recalled her three friends killed in the attack.
“They weren’t shadows in the back of the hallways,” she said in an interview. “They were present even after graduation. And they’re always going to be a presence now that they’re gone.”
We are all very devastated to hear the news about Tarishi Jain. She was a smart and ambitious young woman with a big heart.
— Sanchita Saxena, director of the Center for Bangladesh Studies
Twenty-eight victims died during a lengthy standoff at the Holey Artisan Bakery in the Bangladeshi capital, where armed attackers stormed the restaurant Friday night, saying they wanted to kill non-Muslims. Six assailants were killed in a battle with security forces.
Three of those killed were enrolled at U.S. universities: Tarishi Jain, who was studying at UC Berkeley, and her former classmates Abinta Kabir and Faraaz Hossain, both students at Emory University in Atlanta. All three had attended the American International School Dhaka, according to classmates.
As news of the attack spread, friends around the world went to their Facebook pages and, where a photograph might go, posted the somber image of a black square. Many of the mourners used the refrain “Once a Tiger, Always a Tiger” – a reference to the school mascot.
Jain, the 18-year-old daughter of a Dhaka textile merchant, had been planning to major in economics at Berkeley, according to the university. In June, she had started an internship working on e-commerce growth at Eastern Bank Limited in Dhaka, arranged through a university center for Bangladeshi studies.
“We are all very devastated to hear the news about Tarishi Jain. She was a smart and ambitious young woman with a big heart,” said Sanchita Saxena, executive director for the Institute for South Asia Studies, in a statement released by the university.
At Berkeley, Jain had gotten involved with the International Students Assn. and joined a student group, EthiCAL, that designs apparel to help underprivileged entrepreneurs start their own businesses.
“She was very driven,” said Emerald Wong, a fellow student who serves as vice president of sales for EthiCAL. “But not by selfish reasons … more so because she wanted to make a difference.”
Kabir, who was from Miami, was a rising sophomore at Oxford College at Emory University, according to a university statement.
Hossain, who was from Dhaka, had graduated from the same college and was headed into Emory’s Goizueta Business School in the fall.
Both were involved in the Student Activities Committee at Emory. Many friends were reluctant to share further details about the victims, saying that their families wanted privacy in the aftermath of the attack.
Former students say the Dhaka school is the kind of place where it’s easy to know just about everyone on campus. The high school had just 205 students, and the elementary grades about 550 more.
The school website describes it as “a multicultural institution with an American curriculum structure taught in the English language.”
Mahbub said her graduating class included a smattering of different nationalities, including students of Swedish, Mexican, Canadian and Korean descent. As a tradition, the school holds a “UN Day” where students march in national costumes and wave flags.
Nearly four years ago, Kabir once tagged Jain and two other friends in a Facebook photo, labeling it “UN DAY With my cute peeps.” Jain responded: “lol that’s my desktop wallpaper.”
Hossain also posted a picture of himself and Jain wearing medals on Facebook two years ago, with the caption: “Last trip with this kid” and “I think I'm gonna miss you a litttttlee bit next year."
Even after she graduated and went abroad, Mahbub said, she and other alumni woke up early to watch volleyball and other school games streamed online. In an impassioned Facebook post, she wrote that she and her schoolmates “are all part of a large, interconnected family scattered all over the world.”
“We’re mourning together,” she wrote. “We’re supporting each other. And we’re carrying each other through one of the darkest periods that’s ever hit our home.”
Follow me on Twitter at @LATimesEmily
FOR THE RECORD
July 6, 6:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this article said Tarishi Jain was 19. She was 18.
20 hostages dead, 13 rescued after siege in Bangladesh capital's diplomatic zone
Bangladesh crackdown: more than 14,000 arrests, yet machete attacks continue
With writers and editors being murdered, free speech is at risk in Bangladesh
7:42 p.m.: This article has been updated throughout with additional information about the three students.
11:19 a.m.: This article has been updated with comment from UC Berkeley.
This article was originally published at 10:54 a.m.
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