24 November 2009

Faces burned with acid

Most people are aware that in some cultural settings, women and girls are punished by having acid thrown in their face. Typically these stories circulate without photographs of the victims, perhaps in part because of the shame felt by the victim, but also because of hesitancy of the mainstream press to inflict such images on the public.

This week I found at the All Eyes blog at TampaBay.com an essay on the subject accompanied by a set of a dozen portraits, each accompanied by a brief biographical sketch. Here are some examples:
Irum was burned on her face, back and shoulders twelve years ago when a boy whom she rejected for marriage threw acid on her in the middle of the street. She has undergone plastic surgery 25 times...

Shameem was raped by three boys who then threw acid on her three years ago. Shameem has undergone plastic surgery 10 times...

At the age of five Najaf was burned by her father while she was sleeping, apparently because he didn't want to have another girl in the family. As a result of the burning Najaf became blind and after being abandoned by both her parents she now lives with relatives. She has undergone plastic surgery around 15 times...

Bushra was burned with acid thrown by her husband five years ago because she was trying to divorce him. She has undergone plastic surgery 25 times...

Menuna was burned by a group of boys who threw acid on her to settle a dispute between their family and Menuna's...
The Tampa Bay article links to a NYT column by multiple-Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof which further discusses these acid attacks.

I found the Tampa Bay blog link in a Reddit thread, where this topic is discussed at length, and where there are links to several organizations which provide support to these women, and which accept donations: The Acid Survivors Trust International, The Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity, and the Acid Survivors Foundation, Pakistan.

I suppose there will be visitors to TYWKIWDBI who will be distressed to be confronted by these faces on arriving at the blog. I don't care. These women have been "below the fold" too long. It's hard for me to describe how high my respect is for the raw courage these women display, not only in pursuing their lives with such an enormous cosmetic defect, but in being willing to be photographed. I encourage you to view the other portraits and admire the quiet dignity of these women.

Photos by Emilio Morenatti, Associated Press.


  1. I believe that this isn't only a question of publicity, but also one that requires serious measures. It is easy to get it into the WWW as described by this article (http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=4KTCTCDQHOH6&preview=article&linkid=0e05389e-5f8a-466f-a6ff-b1a4f070bdbf&pdaffid=ZVFwBG5jk4Kvl9OaBJc5%2bg%3d%3d), but its' whether we do something about it that counts. YOur post is a start, so thanks for that.


  2. Thank you- this is something that needs to go viral. A most necessary antidote to the daily narcissistic, celebrity photo op.

    I've previously commented on how true Christians (like the Amish who forgave and sought to console the family of the shooter who killed their children) seek to forgive- but this goes straight to my primitive reptilian, vengeance receptors. Perhaps it's ignorant of me to say, but it seems that even children of sexual abuse can have very real hopes of recovery- and need not be reminded of it each and every minute of every single day. The people who do this should be confined for the rest of their natural lives, and the survivors should be granted every opportunity imaginable to lead fruitful productive lives in the manner of their choosing. The latter, of course, is stating the obvious- but what words can possibly convey the immensity of such crime, and the depths of such suffering? And how many will, in fact, be granted that opportunity?

    Look upon these survivors and know that within them lies a humanity seldom acheived on earth. Think about their plight, and yours, as we celebrate this Thanksgiving day.

  3. Yes, the photos are distressing to look at, but not nearly so much as the physical and psychological pain these women endure. We need to have to look at photos like these to get us out of our comfort zones and make us realize the abuse of human rights that goes on in the world. Thank you for posting these.

  4. Good for you for posting these pictures. These are not ugly people, there are real humans who had an ugly thing done to them. It is assault, if not murder.

    When people put too much value on aesthetics, they start to do very ugly things. The acid attacks are to destroy the value of the woman's "beauty" without regard to the real-live human inside. Some cultures have a long way to go.

  5. Don't apologize for showing these pictures.

    I ache for these women. I would love to gather them up and somehow provide for them, spare them as much grief for the rest of their lives. They have had more grief than any human should have to endure.

    I get a little upset when I hear pampered people who have never been subject to any violence whatsoever say they "can't" see graphic photos or watch movies where there are images of war. (In my experience, they are invariably the pacifist types who seem to think that if we just treat everyone with kindness, we will be treated with kindness in return. If that is how you think, then by definition, you must believe these women did something to "deserve" the acid.)

    I don't seek out graphic images either but I don't turn away from them when they appear - they are a reminder of the reality that so many face every day.

    Stan B: I hear what you are saying about vengeance receptors. If there were any justice in Pakistan (and other places where this happens), the people who do this would never see the light of day again.

  6. Deana- Not to take anything away from the topic at hand, but sadly enough we shouldn't forget we still have hate crimes right here in this country where you can still be beaten and killed simply for being gay or the wrong color- and well known people who play up to those very fears.

  7. thank you for posting this! the strength of these women! as with everyone here, keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

  8. My name is Valerie Khan Yusufzai and we are helping theses women to build up their life again, kindly visit our website for more information!

    see you on line!

    ASF-Pak chairperson.

  9. Some of the attackers appear to be closely related to their victims...
    I wonder, would a skin transplant be successful in those cases?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...