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article imageAcid attacks trouble Pakistan

By Chris V. Thangham     Dec 1, 2008 in World
Al-Qaeda has a safe haven in Pakistan and now acid attacks on woman seem to be another sanctioned form of violence in the region as well.
Nicholas D. Kristof from New York Times did an investigative report after hearing about acid attacks incidents in Pakistan.
He found that acid attacks are not discussed as much as other terrorism attacks, like the ones in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the recent incident in Mumbai. Since they are not discussed, these acid attacks are on the rise, according to Kristof.
The acid attacks are not just concentrated in Pakistan; they occur in most parts of Asia and the victims predominantly are women. Men are seldom the victims.
Recently in Afghanistan, men on motorcycles threw acid on a group of girls, who were trying to get an education. The men were caught but had caused severe facial injuries to a number of girls. But the girls in Afghanistan are not losing faith. One of the injured girls, Shamsia, 17, told reporters from her hospital bed:
“I will go to my school even if they kill me. My message for the enemies is that if they do this 100 times, I am still going to continue my studies.”
Kristof met one of the victims in Pakistan, Naeema Azar, who had recently divorced from her husband. She and her son were attacked by her husband with a bottle of acid.
Naeema was completely disfigured, and despite many skin surgeries, she cannot close both her eyes and her mouth. There is a video in this link, which is very hard to watch.
Naeema used to make a good living by having a good job. Her husband, Azar Jamsheed, a fruit seller, didn’t earn as much and lived off mostly from his wife. She decided to get a divorce, which her husband agreed initially but later threw acid on her.
Jamsheed was never arrested despite this incident and now has disappeared. Kristof was unable to reach him to hear his side of the story.
Naeema is being helped by Progressive Women’s association (http://www.pwaisbd.org), a charity organization for woman run by Shahnaz Bukhari.
Bukhari is planning to raise money for Naeema’s surgeries as well as to hire a lawyer to prosecute Jamsheed.
Kristof found only Bangladesh has imposed any controls on acid attacks. They have strict control in selling the acid. Otherwise, it is easy for anyone to buy sulfuric or hydrochloric acid from the street market, according to Kristof.
Bukhari has so far documented 7,800 cases of women, who were burned, scalded or subjected to acid attacks just in the Islamabad area in Pakistan. Only 2 percent of those cases were prosecuted and punished.
Kristof found most of the victims are poor and female who have no power in a male-dominated societies.
Senators Joe Biden and Richard Lugar have co-sponsored an International Violence Against Women Act, which would require countries to take actions against the culprits. Kristof hopes the bill will pass quickly after Obama and Biden take over the government and put an end to the culture of impunity surrounding this kind of terrorism.
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