Saturday, December 5, 2009

A different kind of terrorism

While many of us associate terrorism with suicide bombs or indiscriminate gunfire like the recent incident at a Rawalpindi mosque, there exists within our society another kind of terrorism. And unlike these attacks, it is more personal. It is not ideology or political agenda that drives acid attacks on women. Its a culture that accepts violence against women as a norm.

The first step in curbing this kind terrorism is to document these attacks and provide legal and medical aid to the victims. The Progressive Women's Association  (PWA) in Pakistan is one organization which deals with such cases.Since its inception, PWA have gathered over 7,800 such cases, of which only 2% have garnered a conviction.While our attention over the past months has been focused on dealing with Taliban violence against civilians and rightly so, we must not forget about this kind of terrorism either.

Please note that the following images are graphic. View at your own risk.
Image credit: Emilio Morenatti, Associated Press



Irum Saeed, 30, poses for a photograph at her office at the Urdu University of Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, July 24, 2008. 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 to try to recover from her scars.



Shameem Akhter, 18, poses for a photograph at her home in Jhang, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 10, 2008. Shameem was raped by three boys who then threw acid on her three years ago. Shameem has undergone plastic surgery 10 times to try to recover from her scars.



Najaf Sultana, 16, poses for a photograph at her home in Lahore, Pakistan on Wednesday, July 9, 2008. 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 to try to recover from her scars.



Shehnaz Usman, 36, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. Shehnaz was burned with acid by a relative due to a familial dispute five years ago. Shehnaz has undergone plastic surgery 10 times to try to recover from her scars.


Shahnaz Bibi, 35, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. Ten years ago Shahnaz was burned with acid by a relative due to a familial dispute. She has never undergone plastic surgery.

Kanwal Kayum, 26, adjusts her veil as she poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. Kanwal was burned with acid one year ago by a boy whom she rejected for marriage. She has never undergone plastic surgery.



Munira Asef, 23, poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2008. Munira was burned with acid five years ago by a boy whom she rejected for marriage. She has undergone plastic surgery 7 times to try to recover from her scars.



Bushra Shari, 39, adjusts her veil as she poses for a photograph in Lahore, Pakistan, Friday, July. 11, 2008. 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 to try to recover from her scars.




Memuna Khan, 21, poses for a photograph in Karachi, Pakistan, Friday, Dec. 19, 2008. Menuna was burned by a group of boys who threw acid on her to settle a dispute between their family and Menuna's. She has undergone plastic surgery 21 times to try to recover from her scars.


Zainab Bibi, 17, adjusts her veil as she poses for a photograph in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008. Zainab was burned on her face with acid thrown by a boy whom she rejected for marriage five years ago. She has undergone plastic surgery several times to try to recover from her scars.




Naila Farhat, 19, poses for a photograph in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008. Naila was burned on her face with acid thrown by a boy whom she rejected for marriage five years ago. She has undergone plastic surgery several times to try to recover from her scars.



Saira Liaqat, 26, poses for the camera as she holds a portrait of herself before being burned, at her home in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, July 9, 2008. When she was fifteen, Saira was married to a relative who would later attack her with acid after insistently demanding her to live with him, although the families had agreed she wouldn't join him until she finished school. Saira has undergone plastic surgery 9 times to try to recover from her scars.




8 comments:

  1. How can you change this when,

    before condemning such incidents

    the clerics will ask why was she be-purdah,

    the generals would see it an Indian conspiracy,

    the right wingers would remind us that this is an Islamic state and then express their sadness it with a smirk

    and the television anchors will make sure that such issues are not talked about ever on their talk shows!

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  2. Skunk,
    I agree with your view.
    The biggest problem with Pakistani society is that as a people we are not willing to take responsibility for our actions. That translates into blaming everyone (India and Jews) for our problems. This denial feeds into the "blame the victim" mentality you have mentioned.

    Until we recognize that violence against women (or men for that matter) is not acceptable under any circumstances, incidents like this will continue. One short term solution is to limit the sale of sulfuric and hydrochloric acid. Bangladesh has alredy done this, and is seeing some reduction in these attacks. In the long term, we need to educate people.

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  3. tauba tauba
    but there is some good news:
    pakistan judges order ears and nose of 2 men to be cut off after they did the same to a women who rejected one of the boys in marriage
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8425820.stm

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  4. I don't know if cutting off the ears and nose of men who do the same to women is a viable solution to the problem. Violence against women is acceptable in all levels of society and until we recognize this issue and raise awareness, such attacks are going to occur.

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  5. unless violence is applied to the violent they will never understand

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  6. @Captain03
    I disagree. In my opinion violence is very rarely a viable solution to these attacks. Firstly, state approved disfigurements only send the message that violence is okay as long as the state partakes in it. It approves violent retribution and revenge and encourages these actions on an individual level. Secondly, violence against women will not disappear if the state employs violence against the perpetrators. It will merely encourage people to ensure that they are never caught or move from acid attacks and disfigurements to other forms of gender violence. Acid attacks and other forms of personal terrorism can only be effectively dealt with if civil society(that's you and me) decides that it is not acceptable.

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  7. I disagree with Captain03. Cutting ear and nose in retribution does not do any good to society. Once I visited Burn unit at civil hospital. It was scary reading those case histories. Truely speaking I don't know the answer...See this

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/12/29/pakistan.maim/index.html

    ReplyDelete