“Every person wishes that he or she is beautiful,” says acid victim Liaqat, 21. “But real beauty lies inside a person, not outside.”
There is a high survival rate amongst victims of acid attacks. Consequently the victim is faced with physical challenges, which require long term surgical treatment, as well as psychological challenges, which require in-depth intervention from psychologists and counsellors at each stage of physical recovery.
Irum Saeed is a resident of Rawalpindi. She recalls how in 1995, when she was only 17, a boy, whose marriage proposal she had rejected, followed her to her college and threw a jug full of acid on her in the middle of a narrow street. She suffered extensive burns on her face, back and shoulders. She has undergone plastic surgery 25 times to try to reduce the terrible disfigurement caused. (Photograph taken: 2008, aged 30)
Shameem Akhter face was mutilated with acid when she was only 17. She was kidnapped and raped by three boys who then threw acid on her in 2005 for revenge. Then they left hoping her appearance would silence her forever and ensure that she would never marry. Shameem has undergone plastic surgery 10 times to try to recover from her scars. (Photograph taken: July 2008, aged 20)
Kanwal Kayum was burned with acid in 2007 by a boy whose marriage proposal she rejected. She has never undergone plastic surgery. (Photograph taken: July 2008, aged 26)
Shehnaz Usman was burned with acid by a relative due to a familial dispute in 2003. Shehnaz has undergone plastic surgery 10 times to recover from the mutilating effects of the acid. (Photograph taken: July 2008, aged 36)
Bushra Shari, was burned with acid thrown by her husband in 2003 because she was trying to divorce him. She has undergone plastic surgery 25 times to try to reduce the devastation caused by the acid attack. (Photograph taken: July 2008, aged 39)
Memuna Khan 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 the terrible physical damage caused by the acid. (Photograph taken: December 2008, aged 21)
Nasreen Sharif, 23, was once a beautiful girl. When she turned 14, her cousin poured a bottle of sulphuric acid on her face as she slept. His excuse was that he couldn’t stand other boys whistling at her because of her beauty when she crossed the street. She no longer bears any resemblance to that youthful beauty. “My skin melted and my hair burned away. I am now blind, I have no ears and I have no sense of smell”, says Nasreen.
Naila Farhat poses for a photograph in Islamabad, Pakistan on, Dec. 24, 2008 after undergoing plastic surgery several times to try to reduce the cruelly mutilating effects of her scars. Naila was burned on her face with acid thrown by a boy whom she rejected for marriage in 2003. (Photograph taken: December 2008, aged 19)
Zainab Bibi, adjusts her veil as she poses for a photograph in 2008. As is often the case in Pakistan, Zainab was burned on her face with acid thrown by a boy whom she rejected for marriage some years ago. She has undergone plastic surgery several times to try to recover from her scars. (Photograph taken: December 2008, aged 17)
Pakistani acid attack survivor Naziran Bibi learns to walk down the stairs with a stick at the Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness in Rawalpindi on the outskirts of Islamabad. She is only 23 years old, but with no upper lip, a barely reconstructed nose, scar tissue where her right eye should be and a raw red socket where her left eye once was, her youth is impossible to discern. Married off against her will as a second wife to her brother-in-law after her husband died, Bibi says she was treated abysmally. Then one terrible night in 2008, someone poured acid over her as she slept, causing horrendous burns. Bibi thinks her husband was responsible, but he remains free. (Photograph taken: December 2009, aged 23)
Attiya Khalil, 16, poses for a photograph at her home in Lahore, Pakistan. Attiya’s face was burnt with acid thrown by relatives of a neighbor boy whom she rejected for marriage in 2005. She has undergone plastic surgery three times to try to revert the marring effects of the acid attack. (Photograph taken: July 2008, aged 16)
Munira Asef 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. (Photograph taken: October 2008, aged 23)