First Bengali woman to receive State funeral


On Thursday 18 November 1999 Sufia Kamal was taken from her Dhanmondi residence to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital (BSMMUH) in Dhaka for chronic renal failure She was also suffering from old age complications.

She was removed to the ICU on Friday at about 7pm as her condition deteriorated . She was under the supervision of two senior doctors, Dr. K. M. Iqbal and Dr Harun-ur-Rashid.











Sufia's last request for a simple private burial and not state funeral

Before her death Ms. Kamal specified that she preferred to be buried in a simple private cemetery rather than in the national cemetery, where her nation's leaders had suggested she be buried Her views on the country's leaders, expressed in the interview earlier this year, suggest why.

Our people are courageous; our leaders are not. Today they recourse to bombastic rhetoric but never take bold decisions because they may be unpleasant. Why? Because they lack courage.

Sufia Kamal expresses disappointment on lack of leadership in the country

Passing away

Sufia Kamal died of cardiac arrest at 8.55 am at the Intensive Care Unit of BSMMUH on Saturday 20 November 1999. She was 88 years old. She left behind three daughters and two sons. Her eldest son Shahed Kamal, a journalist and daughter Amena Kahar were staying with her at her Dhanmondi residence. Her youngest son Sajid Kamal, who resided in United States of America, was expected to arrive before her burial.

A pall of gloom descended on the capital as the news of her death spread. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was among the first to rush to the hospital to pay tributes on hearing the sad news.

Sufia Kamal was buried four days later with full state honors, the first woman to receive that recognition from Bangladesh

As the national flag was lowered and buglers saluted, about 10,000 people came to pay their respects at her funeral on Wednesday in Dhaka.

Speaking at the ceremony, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called Sufia Kamal "the beacon" and praised her for devoting her life to fighting for the rights of women and the poor and against the forces of religious fundamentalism. Bangladesh's best-loved poet and a champion of women's rights was no more.

This poet was the beacon for our great language movement and liberation war, and inspiration for all democratic movements of the nation. This poet was a vast source of inspiration for building up womenfolk as self-reliant.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the funeral ceremony
 "Our lady of light", as The Daily Star called her while awarding her the 1996 person of the year, left a nation grieving with the President Shahabuddin Ahmed leading the mourners. "All her life, she led the Muslim women to the path of progress," said the President in a condolence message. The body was brought to 'Shajer Maya', the poet's Dhanmondi residence (House 15) on Road 11 (new), at about 11 in the morning. The President, Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia, ministers, political leaders, journalists, writers, cultural activists and human rights activists paid their last respects to the "beacon of democracy" at the Dhanmondi residence. Streams of mourners in their hundreds continued to flock there till the body was taken to BIRDEM hospital at about 3pm after the first namaj-e-janaja at the Dhanmandi residence. A condolence book was opened at the residence. Several senior ministers accompanied the Prime Minister to the hospital. A 1001-member National Committee, with Prof Kabir Choudhury as convenor, will hold a condolence meeting at the Central Shaheed Minar in the city on November 26 at 3pm. The poet's body will be kept at BIRDEM mortuary till Wednesday morning for arrival of her son from US. On that day, the body will be taken to Bangladesh Mahila Parishad office at 2pm and kept there for half an hour. Then the body will be taken to Bangla Academy and kept there for some time before taking it to the Central Shaheed Minar where it will be kept till 5pm to enable people to pay their last respect. Her namaj-e-janaza will be held at the Jatiya Eidgah Maidan after Maghreb prayers. She will be buried at the Azimpur graveyard as per last wish, family sources said. "Being inspired by the ideology of Begum Rokeya, Sufia Kamal led the Muslim women to the path of progress for three decades," the President said in the message. "He was a poet who earned blessings of Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Saugat Editor Mohammad Nasiruddin." Recalling her role in anti-autocracy movements, the President said she held women rallies and led processions during the mass upsurge in 1969. She had been the president of Mahila Parishad since 1970 and was associated with so many socio-cultural and literary organisations, he said. "It is needless to say that the death of Sufia Kamal has created an irreparable loss to the movement for welfare of women", Shahabuddin said. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her message said the nation lost a courageous matriarch who fought lifelong for establishing truth, justice and democracy. Deeply shocked at the death of the poet, Hasina said Begum Sufia Kamal, pioneer of women renaissance, was a personality who was dauntless, incorruptible and respected by all. "She was the beckon of the great Language Movement and Liberation War and inspiration in all democratic movements of the nation". Sufia Kamal strongly condemned the killing of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and was always vocal for the trial of the killers, Hasina said. She was a social reformer and was against all forms of fanaticism, fundamentalism and autocracy, the Prime Minister said. Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia also expressed her deep shock at the death of the poet. In her message, she said literary works of Begum Sufia Kamal have glorified the Bangla literature. The former prime minister also expressed her sympathy with the members of the bereaved family and prayed for salvation of the departed soul.