Alina Bibi was a housewife with 5 children living in the remote village of Jatooi in southern Punjab of Pakistan. On 2nd September 1997 at 4 am, while Alina was sleeping at her home with her 8 year old daughter Sara, criminals attacked and burnt Alina with acid. Her face and arms were badly burnt and the ear of her daughter was completely burnt.
An FIR was registered but Alina went for out of court settlement and both mother and daughter were under treatment which stopped when they could no longer afford it. Alina’s contractures would not allow her to move her arm and she experienced a great deal of difficulty and pain managing her household chores.
This continued for nearly a decade until Alina was approached by ASF in January 2007. At ASF NCRU, Alina received medical and psychological rehabilitation with a range of successful surgical procedures. Now she has turned to life again, being an active housewife, and has happily become an agent of change fighting against acid violence: Alina has accompanied and referred two survivors to ASF for medical and legal help.
Hira, a young girl of 22 years, was married to Pervez Ahmad in the village of Gujranwala. She is also the mother of a 2 year old daughter. She had been experiencing domestic violence from her in-laws since she got married, but the cruelty reached its peak on 26th April 2006, when her mother in law, sister in law and brother in law threw acid on her. After this brutality they locked her in a room. At 6 o clock in the evening they took her to the hospital at which point the acid had melted her skin and bones badly.
Hira was admitted to a Government hospital and her parents left no stone unturned for her treatment. They have also sold all of their valuables to pursue the legal case against the criminals. However, they have not been successful and instead have received false legal cases against themselves from opponents.
After two years Hira was not able to eat and drink properly due to her melted lips and contracture of neck. Luckily a doctor named Ijaz referred her to ASF-P on 1st March, 2008. At ASF she has received multiple surgical procedures to release contractures and reconstruct her lips and face. Now she looks better and can eat and drink properly. ASF-P is also following up with legal support by getting in touch with the lawyer. The return of Hira’s daughter to her has been discussed as well as the punishment of the criminals. She has attended her second surgery and is getting ready for the third one.
Bina, a young widow living in the small village of district Muzaffargarh with her 3 children, was attacked by a man who wanted to marry her and who she refused. On the 18th Sep 1993 Bina was sleeping, along with her 8 month old daughter, Neelum, when Abdul Rahman and Rab Nawaz attacked her with acid. As a result, she and her daughter were badly burnt. Bina and her daughter were taken to the nearest hospital where only first aid treatment was given.
Bilal Mohammad (Bina’s father) fought a court case against the criminals. However, when he died, there was no one to follow the case. In the end the criminals were freed from the jail on bail. Due to social pressure Bina had to get married to the same person who attacked her. The accused married her on the condition that she withdraw the case against him. She withdrew the case but the accused did not take any responsibility for her, in spite of wed lock, so she still had to work in the fields to feed herself and her four children.
On January 2007 a field coordinator from ASF Pakistan approached Bina to consider medical treatment as she had not previously had surgery. She was brought to the nursing care center of ASF Pakistan on 5th February, 2007 where free surgeries on her neck and eyelids were carried out. Medical follow ups and psychological treatment were also provided. As a result, Bina is now able to handle her household affairs very adequately, imposed her husband to take care of her financially and also supports her children by rearing livestock and working in the fields. ASF Pakistan has also helped to renovate her broken house and install a hand pump.
Neelum, Bina’s daughter who was also attacked, has just undergone her 5th surgery and is now working as a nanny and is learning how to read and write, getting ready to leave a proactive life that she will chose. She has joined ASF group of agents of change.
By profession Rashida Naz (Mohammad Rashid Naz) was a dancer and used to dance at weddings. In 2003, when Rashida was only 15 years old, some people of her area wanted to have illicit relations with her. She refused and they threw acid on her. She was badly disfigured and not able to eat while sitting due to acid burns on her lips and neck. She has also lost her eyesight.
Through its Notification system ASF found her and brought her to Islamabad for treatment She had not received any treatment up to this point. Through ASF, Rashida has received grafting to her lips and neck which now allows her to drink and eat easily. Rashida will not be able to see again, she has therefore been trained to make ‘parandas’ and bangles that she can sell to improve her livelihood. She is also an agent of change providing para-counseling to other survivors, especially the ones who have become blind.
Maria Bibi – A Case Study
Maria Bibi is a nine year old girl belonging to District Muzaffargarh. She has 3 brothers and 5 sisters, of whom Maria is the youngest.
Maria, at the age of eight, was part of a horrific acid attack on April 3rd, 2010. Upon refusing a proposal from a man named Amjad for Maria’s elder sister, Maria’s family received a number of threats that if Maria’s sister was not wed to Amjad, she would not be left in a position to marry any one at all. Unfortunately, at that time, Maria’s family was not able to foresee the extent to which Amjad was willing to go, to harm her family, and her sister in particular. On April 3rd, in the evening, when Maria and her family were outside on the veranda having dinner, Amjad and two of his friends, Zahid and Abid came to Maria’s house and threw acid on the family from over the wall. Maria and her mother, happened to be sitting closest to the wall and as a result were burnt the most. For the next hour, Maria’s family fervently tried to ease the pain by splashing cold water on the burnt areas. When this did not help, they traveled to Roheels Wali- a neighboring town- from where they were referred to Nishtar Hospital, Multan. Despite efforts of doctors at Nishtar, Maria’s mother’s burns turned out to be fatal and she passed away last month due to the degree of excessive burns.
This attack left Maria badly burnt, and without a mother. A former patient of Acid Survivors Foundation- also an acid attack victim- informed Maria’s family about the organization, and so Maria sought refuge in ASF, Islamabad. She was brought here by her elder sister Zainab, who is currently serving as her attendant.
The FIR was filed with the police two days after the attack (05/04/10). Amjad was arrested soon after the attack, while Zahid was arrested only recently. According to Zainab, the arrest of Zahid has caused much controversy in her village as he is the brother of a police officer and she believes that he may be released if the court is not involved soon. The third perpetrator, Abid, has not been arrested yet.
Maria is a brave girl who, despite of what has happened to her, has not forgotten how to laugh. She is an eager and fast learner and has shown great aptitude for language and numbers. Despite the fact that she is not a girl of many words, she shows, through her actions that she is keen to learn and engages in the work assigned to her whole-heartedly.
However, there are times when she is greatly perturbed by the absence of her mother. According to the Head Nurse at ASF, when Maria arrived at ASF, she had very frequent episodes of crying and sobbing and withdrawing from everyone around her completely. She would repeatedly ask for her mother, but she has now come to terms with the fact that her mother has passed away, she is told by her sister that “their mother is in a better place now and that Maria should pray for her”. Maria now finds solace in looking at the single picture that she has of her mother in which she is seen to be cradling little Maria in her arms.
ASF has provided Maria a home when all she encountered elsewhere were closed doors. Maria’s sister Zainab exclaims,
“We are very lucky to have found a place like ASF. We thank God everyday. The people here have been very good to us.”
Although Maria has not undergone any surgery yet, in the past month she has had three medical assessments at PIMS, and one medical evaluation at Al-Shifa eye Trust. The doctors claim that she will be ready for surgery in three months and that is what she is being prepared for. Meanwhile, she is being encouraged to perform certain physical exercises and the Head Nurse changes her bandages and replaces them with new ones twice a day, daily.
Maria has been provided with a comfortable environment at the Nursing Care and Rehabilitation Unit (NCRU) of ASF. The other victims currently staying at the NCRU, although much older to Maria in age, make a special effort to keep her busy and engage her in games and other activities that can conveniently be carried out within the premises.
ASF also encourages the youth of Pakistan to volunteer and lend their services to the organization, and these volunteers- conscientious citizens of Pakistan, enthusiastically try to help in the rehabilitation process as best they can. They try to teach what the patients are willing to learn, and pass on whatever skills they can offer that might be beneficial to the patients.
ASF also actively involves its patients in the fundraising events. Maria and her fellow patients are currently enthusiastically working on making handicrafts which will be displayed at an exhibition in an Art Gallery later this month.
Written by: Sarah Imran, Intern.
Source: Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), Pakistan.