On this day: why was the life of Rakib Khan expendable?

Rakib Khan may 11 gay refugee

Rakib Khan died on the tiny island of Nauru on May 11, 2016. Two days before an ambulance transported him to the local hospital suffering from chest pains, palpitations, nausea and vomiting. A doctor diagnosed an elevated heart rate. But he turned the young gay refugee away with Panadol.

Despite extensive and powerful investigative reporting by BuzzFeed’s Hannah Ryan, the story of this young gay refugee never gained traction in the mainstream Australian press.

Rakib Khan grew up in a loving family in a small Bangladeshi village where as a young man he fell in love with another local youth. After locals became suspicious of the pair, they snuck into Rakib’s boyfriend’s home and discovered the pair naked in a bedroom.

Villagers beat the young couple and then tied them to a tree without food and water. Men threatened to gouge out their eyes and cut off their dicks.

Rakib’s mum told Hannah Ryan, “If he lived in Bangladesh, then people would kill him.”

Rakin Khan escaped Bangladesh and travelled via Indonesia to Australia’s Christmas Island by boat. Under Australia’s  ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, he was sent to detention on Nauru.


A fellow refugee told Hannah Ryan that Rakib’s mental health suffered as a result of his detention. He also suffered discrimination from both fellow refugees and local Nauruans when his sexuality became known.

The day after the hospital turned him away with Panadol, Rakib Khan returned. By chance, an Australian emergency team was at the hospital that day and doctors from that team took over his care.

But an air ambulance ordered to evacuate Rakib to medical care in Australia arrived too late.

Rakib Khan, dead aged 24, May 11, 2016.

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