Haleema 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 Haleema was sleeping at her home with her 8 year old daughter Kauser, criminals attacked and burnt Haleema with acid. Her face and arms were badly burnt and the ear of her daughter was completely burnt.
An FIR was registered but Haleema went for out of court settlement and both mother and daughter were under treatment which stopped when they could no longer afford it. Haleema’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 Haleema was approached by ASF in January 2007. At ASF NCRU, Haleema 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: Haleema has accompanied and referred two survivors to ASF for medical and legal help.
Manzoor Attiqa, a young girl of 22 years, was married to Maqsood 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.
Attiqa 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 Monzoor 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 Manzoor’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.
Shamim, a young widow living in the small village of district Muzzafar Garh with her 3 children, was attacked by a man who wanted to marry her and who she refused. On the 18th Sep 1993 Shamim was sleeping, along with her 8 month old daughter, Safia, when Abdul Rahman and Rab Nawaz attacked her with acid. As a result, she and her daughter were badly burnt. Shamim and her daughter were taken to the nearest hospital where only first aid treatment was given.
Khair Mohammad (Shamim’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 Shamim 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 Shamim 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, Shamim 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.
Safia, Shamim’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 Muhammad Zafar Iqbal was a dancer and used to dance in the weddings. In 2003, when Zafar was only 15 years old, some people of his area wanted to have illicit relations with him. He refused and they threw acid on him. He was badly disfigured and not able to eat while sitting due to acid burns on his lips and neck. He has also lost his eyesight.
Through its Notification system ASF found him and brought him to Islamabad for treatment He had not received any treatment up to this point. Through ASF, Zafar has received grafting to his lips and neck which now allows him to drink and eat easily. Zafar will not be able to see again, he has therefore been trained to make parandas and bangles that he can sell to improve his livelihhod. He is also an agent of change providing paracouseling to other survivors, especially the ones who have become blind.
Afshan Bibi – A Case Study
July 8, 2010
Afshan Bibi is a nine year old girl belonging to District Muzaffargarh. She has 3 brothers and 5 sisters, out of whom Afshan is the youngest.
Afshan, at the age of eight, was part of a horrific acid attack on April 3rd, 2010. Upon refusing a proposal from a man named Arshad for Afshan’s elder sister, Afshan’s family received a number of threats that if Afshan’s sister was not wed to Arshad, she would not be left in a position to marry any one at all. Unfortunately, at that time, Afshan’s family was not able to foresee the extent to which Arshad was willing to go, to harm her family, and her sister in particular. On April 3rd, in the evening, when Afshan and her family were outside on the veranda having dinner, Arshad and two of his friends, Zahid and Abid came to Afshan’s house and threw acid on the family from over the wall. Afshan and her mother, happened to be sitting closest to the wall and as a result were burnt the most. For the next hour, Afshan’s family fervently tried to ease the pain by splashing cold water on the burnt areas. When this did not help, they travelled to Roheels Wali- a neighboring town- from where they were referred to Nishtar Hospital, Multan. Despite efforts of doctors at Nishtar, Afshan’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 Afshan badly burnt, and without a mother. A former patient of Acid Survivors Foundation- also an acid attack victim- informed Afshan’s family about the organization, and so Afshan sought refuge in ASF, Islamabad. She was brought here by her elder sister Zakia, who is currently serving as her attendant.
The FIR was filed with the police two days after the attack (05/04/10). Arshad was arrested soon after the attack, while Zahid was arrested only recently. According to Zakia, 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.
Afshan 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 Afshan 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 Afshan should pray for her”. Afshan now finds solace in looking at the single picture that she has of her mother in which she is seen to be cradling little Afshan in her arms.
ASF has provided Afshan a home when all she encountered elsewhere were closed doors. Afshan’s sister Zakia 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 Afshan 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.
Afshan 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 Afshan 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. Afshan 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.