20 year-old Faraaz Hossain wasn’t thinking about becoming a hero on the evening of July 1, 2016, as he met two former high school classmates from Dhaka, Bangladesh for a brief reunion at their old hangout, Holey Artisan Bakery in the business district of Dhaka. The three friends were home for summer break from studying in America—Hossain as a graduate student at Emory University, Abinta Kabir (age 18) as an undergraduate at Emory, and Tarishi Jain (age 19), a student at Berkeley—and wanted to catch up over some bagels and coffee.
But then seven heavily armed ISIS terrorists stormed the bakery shouting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ and took Hossain and more than thirty customers hostage.
The standoff lasted for almost twelve hours, during which time the terrorists questioned the hostages about their religions and nationalities, and then reportedly told them that if they could not recite passages from the Quran they would die.
Muslims were separated from non-Muslims, and the terrorists had the staff cook meals for the Muslim hostages so they could eat before the Ramadan fast started at sunrise. A group of women dressed in traditional Islamic hijabs were eventually allowed to leave, and then the terrorists told Faraaz that because he was Bengali and Muslim he too could leave.
Eyewitnesses report that Faraaz asked about his friends. Because Abinta wasn’t Muslim and Jain admitted to being an American citizen he was told that they would have to die. “Then, I’ll stay with them” was Hossain’s response. Soon after 20 of the hostages, including Faraaz, Abinta, and Jain, were brutally hacked to death.
Faraaz’s brother Zaraif reported that the autopsy showed wounds consistent with someone who tried to fight back. “Our mom has raised us to always protect and respect women. And he (Faraaz) did so till the end.”
One can only speculate about why Faraaz chose to stay when he could have left. Did he think he could somehow overpower seven men, armed with guns and knives? Did he believe the terrorists would eventually let them all go free? Or did he simply feel that he couldn’t abandon his friends, even knowing that it meant his own death?
What we do know is that Faraaz Hossain was a brilliant and personable graduate student who, at 20 years-old, had a world of wonderful personal and professional options in front of him. And he could have left. Some…perhaps many…would say he should have left. He was destined for success.
Destined for success? Faraaz Hossain was more than successful, he was significant.
Faraaz Hossain is a hero you should know. And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.