‘Please help me. I want my old face backÂ’
By Rabia Ali
Karachi: Every time 28-year-old Shireena Yasmeen looks at herself in the mirror, she feels like smashing it into several pieces. Each time, the reflection in the mirror is not of Yasmeen’s charismatic Bengali features, but of a face disfigured by her husband’s acid attack.
Now lodged at the Panah shelter home, Yasmeen had filed for Khula some five months ago, after having battled and suffered several years of domestic violence.
Little did she know that her fight for a justified right would result in something so disastrous: her husband, Muhammad Ilyas, poured acid all over her, severely damaging her face, leaving one of her eyes sightless, and burning a hole in her left shoulder.
“I am a living corpse. I can neither eat nor can I sleep. I cannot talk much nor can I see properly. I constantly feel as if I am on fire,” she sobbed, as she described the searing pain that she suffers all the time.
An acid attack, in which the chemical commonly used as a cleaning product in households is used by the perpetrator, is termed as the worst form of violence by human rights activists. Yet, acid-throwing cases continue unabated: the 2009 report of the Aurat Foundation claims that around 53 women were burnt in such attacks all over the country.
In Karachi, the Burns Centre of the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) registered around 17 people from January to September 2010 who became victims of acid-throwing incidents.
Mairaj Alam of the Smile Again Project, a non-governmental organisation that focuses on the treatment of burnt women, told The News that in most cases, the culprits are victim’s husbands, in-laws or in case of single women, the man whose marriage proposal she may have rejected.
“The average age bracket of the victims is around 25 to 30 years. Such brutal violence is common in the lower strata of the society and amongst the illiterate people, who due to financial woes, poverty, and other problems, indulge in acid throwing.”
In Yasmeen’s case, her husband subjected her to frequent beatings as she was unable to earn much as a domestic worker in houses. “Before the attack, I even ran off to my aunt’s house in Lahore to escape from the constant battering, and stayed there for several months. But it had no effect on my husband,” Yasmeen narrated.
“When I returned, his beatings turned harsher by the day, and then in the end, I went to my parents’ house in Sohrab Goth. One day, he just came over and poured acid over me,” said this mother of three children.
Yasmeen was admitted to the Burns Centre for two months, where she underwent two surgeries. But according to Alam, the recovery period for these patients takes up to two years and can last for several years.
“In case of female victims, acid is usually thrown on their faces and chests, due to which their body organs can be damaged. We have seen that in the majority of these cases, once a woman becomes a victim of an acid attack, her family and children become afraid of her and shun her. So along with the treatment, her rehabilitation is equally necessary,” he explained.
CHK Burns Centre Executive Director Dabirur Rehman told The News that a psycho-therapy programme at the centre is in the offing, where victims would be given counselling in order to cope with the trauma.
Abdul Hai of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) told The News that such attacks can only be eliminated if there is a complete ban of acid products without prescriptions. Similarly, companies producing acid products should also dilute the substance. He also called for the government to pass legislation on acid-throwing, and to give swift and quick justice to the victim.
But for Yasmeen, there is no hope of getting justice, as her husband, who was registered in the attack incident at the Taimuria police station, escaped from court premises during hearing.
“Every time my body hurts, I utter a curse for my husband. I don’t know where he is nor do I believe that he will ever get punished for what he did to me. I don’t want anything; I just want to be alright. I just want the pain to go away,” she said. “Please help me. I want my old face back,” was Yasmeen’s only plea.
Source: The News