“I tried to mend her physical scars, but was unable to heal her soul.” – Reconstructive surgeon Professor Charvelli speaking about Fakhra Yunus, from the Acid Survivors Website.
No longer able to endure the everlasting pain and suffering, results of an acid attack in Pakistan, Fakhra Yunus finally ended her misery. Unfortunately for victims like her, Yunus’ story is not unique.
Who was she?
Fakhra Yunus grew up poor in Pakistan; some would say on the wrong side of the tracks. Beautiful and full of life, at the age of 22 she joined the oldest profession in the world in order to help support her family. That’s when she initially met her husband to be, Bilal Khar. It was 1998.
Though Khar was from a wealthy, politically connected family in Pakistan, theirs is not a romantic tale of poor girl meets rich handsome boy, gets married and lives happily ever after. In reality, beatings, at the hands of Khar, drove Yunus to flee their home.
In 2000, apparently Khar and his vengeance caught up with Yunus and allegedly doused her with flesh dissolving acid, enough to cause irreparable facial damage. Khar has never been arrested for the brutal assault and denies any involvement.
Noted Pakistani women’s rights author, Tehmina Durrani, helped Yunus take flight to Italy where she received proper medical care, including 38 reconstructive surgeries.
About Yunus’ injuries, Durrani is quoted as saying, “I have met many acid victims. Never have I seen one as completely disfigured as Fakhra. She had not just become faceless; her body had also melted to the bone.”
On March 17, 2012, while living in Rome, unable to contend with her situation any longer, Fakhra Yunus acted on impulse in order to escape her living hell. The ABC News a story, “Acid Attack Victim Fakhra Yunus Commits Suicide,” written by Mikaela Conley, provides the details:
“A woman who became the disfigured face of the shunned and forgotten women of Pakistan committed suicide, jumping from her sixth floor apartment window in Italy last week.”
Others like Fakhra Yunus
Fakhra Yunus is not an aberration. The Academy Award winning film, Saving Face, directed by Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, exposed the anguish of two other acid attack victims. The picture, which won an Oscar® in 2012 for Documentary (Short Subject), suggests there are other Fakhra Yunuses out there who need help. The movie’s website explains:
“Every year in Pakistan, many people – the majority of them women – are known to be victimized by brutal acid attacks, while numerous other cases go unreported. With little or no access to reconstructive surgery, survivors are physically and emotionally scarred. Many reported assailants, typically a husband or someone else close to the victim, receive minimal punishment from the state.”
How prevalent is acid violence?
Mikaela Conley’s ABC News piece cited a New York Times item that found, between 1994 and 2008, “More than 7,000 deliberate burning attacks against women were recorded by the Progressive Women’s Association of Pakistan in just two Pakistani towns.”
Before her suicide, Fakhra Yunus left a note. Reports say Yunus was doing this, “because of the silence and atrocities committed by Pakistani leaders.”
In this case, many feel justice delayed is justice denied.