Rais Bhuiyan was first threatened and then robbed at gunpoint while working at a gas station in Dallas, Texas, in 2001. Terrified, he advocated for enhanced safety and security measures in the workplace, but his employer refused. Instead, to save money, his boss returned their only security cameras.
Ten days after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, a self-described “Arab slayer” walked into the gas station where Bhuiyan worked and shot him in the face at point blank range as an act of retaliation.
“At first, it felt like a million bees were stinging my face, and then I heard it – the explosion,” said Bhuiyan, who had come to the U.S. to pursue higher education after graduating as a pilot officer from the Bangladesh Air Force Academy. He lost sight in his right eye and more than three dozen bullet fragments remain in his skull, but he survived the attack. Two other South Asian men died that day.
“It is not only my story that brings me here today, but my conviction and hope that by utilizing empathy and compassion, we can combat the issues of inequity, safety, security and violence in the workplace,” said Bhuiyan, who founded the nonprofit World Without Hate. He recently gave the keynote speech at a Workers’ Memorial Day event, hosted by the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the UW School of Public Health.