Fakhra Younus, 33, former Pakistani prostitute or "dancing girl" has committed suicide, 12 years after a vicious acid attack that left her severely disfigured. She jumped to her death from her sixth floor apartment in Rome this weekend.
The Washington Post reports that her suicide comes some months after a documentary titled "Saving Face," which detailed acid attacks on women in Pakistan won an Oscar. The Washington Post reports neighbors said Younus was last seen looking at her face in the mirror and weeping.
Younus was attacked with acid in May 2000. Her former husband Bilal Khar was charged with attempted murder and accused of entering Younus's mother's house and pouring acid on her face while she slept. The attack occurred in the presence of Younus's son who was then five years old. Khar, the son of influential and wealthy Pakistani governor of Punjab Ghulam Mustafa Khar, was granted bail within months of his arrest and was eventually acquitted. But it is widely believed his father's influence and connections helped him escape conviction. The Washington Post reports Khar was also the cousin of Pakistan's foreign minister.
Younus's facial disfigurement was extensive. She was often unable to breathe, and her facial features melted and fused together into a single bulbous tangled mass, with her nose and left ear melting completely, her lips fused, one of her eyes blinded, and her breasts melted. She underwent 39 separate surgical operations to repair the damage without success.
She once lamented her condition, saying, "My face is a prison to me," while her son, Naumar, who is now a teenager, was unable to believe the transformation his mother had gone through after the attack. He said: "This is not my mother."
Younus's case was only one of thousands of similar cases in Pakistan until she came to the notice of Pakistani writer and activist Tehmina Durrani, author of "My Feudal Lord," a book severely critical of the status and role of women in Muslim society. The Washington Post reports Durrani wrote about Younus's death: “At the young age of 22 an acid attack left her only marginally alive, her horrific mutilation disfigured her so completely that she was now confronted by open disgust and contempt by everyone who set eyes on her in Pakistan. She also became a liability to her own family for whom she was once a source of income. 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. Despite her stark and hopeless condition, the government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was not in the least God-fearing. She was provided nothing...but disdain...and trashed.”
According to Daily Mail, Durrani helped Younus move to Italy and she lived in Rome while her surgical treatments continued. The story of her life in the past 12 years ended tragically on March 17 when she took her life. She left a note protesting the silence of the law on her plight and the insensitivity of Pakistani authorities.
Durrani says an Italian professor who counseled Younus, said: “I tried to mend her physical scars but was unable to heal her soul.”
Durrani, according to Daily Mail, was ex-wife of Bilal Khar's father. Huffington Post reports Durrani said Younus had vowed before she died: "When I come back [to Pakistan], I will reopen the case, and I'll fight myself."
After the news of Younus's death, Durrani explained that her case shows the Pakistani government needs to do more to fight cases of violence against women. She said: "I think this whole country should be extremely embarrassed that a foreign country took responsibility for a Pakistani citizen for 13 years because we could give her nothing, not justice, not security."
Her former husband Khar, continues to deny he was involved in the attack in spite of the widespread belief that he is guilty. Khar claimed that another man carried out the attack. He also said Younus killed herself because of her financial problems and not because of her injuries. He insinuated she killed herself because her mentors who took her to Italy failed to fulfill their promises to her. He claimed he had been taking care of her before Durrani intervened and took her to Italy
Dawn reports Yunus met Khar in 1998 and they got married within six months. According to Dawn, the two met at a dance party. Younus was 18 when she married Khar, 30. She already had a three-year-old son when they married. According to Dawn, it is alleged she left Khar and returned to her parent’s home after she discovered that Khar had three previous marriages. She also accused Khar of physically and verbally abusing her. But Khar claims that their marriage broke up because he faced financial problems the same year they were married.
The Aurat Foundation, a women's right organization, reports that before the Pakistani government introduced a law last year that criminalized acid attacks and provided that anyone found guilty of an acid attack will serve a 14 year jail term, more than 8,500 acid attacks and other incidents of violence against women, often associated with forced marriages, were reported in Pakistan in 2011 alone.
Huffington Post reports Younus was happy when Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won the Oscar for the documentary about acid attack victims in Pakistan, but she was not happy that she wasn't profiled in the film.
The Washington Post reports an ironic footnote to Younus's tragic death: Asian Correspondent' s Ahsan Butt, posted a photo of the foreign minister of Pakistan giving award to the filmmaker of "Saving Face." Butt commented sarcastically: “One acid-burn victim leaped to her death...and one-acid burn perpetrator’s cousin is presenting prizes to a documentarian whose Oscar-winning film was about acid-burning women. There’s something very wrong with this picture.”