Charity photo exhibition for 'Acid Survivors'
"I am guilty of not having an affair with one of my neighbour's son," says Shahinur Akther Smrity a 19-year-old acid survivor from Bogra. It was the year 2000 when she was attacked. Her story is similar to hundreds of other Acid Survivors of the country, a story of pain and struggle. "Life has never been the same for me since the attack", Smrity added. Smrity received help from the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF). After missing education for several years she finally appeared in the HSC exams in 2004. She dreams of becoming a nurse and having a normal life like everybody else. Smrity knows that her struggle is not yet over. The worst part is still ahead, the part where she fights with the harsh reality of this society, a fight of rebuilding her life. "People must be aware that this is a heinous crime. I hope with all my heart that no one else in this world faces what I have faced," she conveys.
Smrity was telling her story at the inauguration ceremony of Charity Photo Exhibition for Acid Survivors organised by ASF on August 24.
The purpose of the photo exhibition is to raise funds for acid survivors. Over a 100 celebrated and promising photographers and photojournalists of Bangladesh are participating in the exhibition with over 300 photographs. ASF is hosting the photo exhibition in three different venues to reach a wider range of patrons. The first one was held in Dhaka Sheraton Hotel from August 25 to 27. The second exhibition will be held at Pan Pacific Sonargaon from September 2 to 4 (10am to 9pm). The third one will be held on September 8 (10am-9pm) and September 9 (10am-5pm) at Spectra Convention Centre. All sales proceeds will be used in supporting acid survivors, for their treatment, legal support and rehabilitation.
It was revealed in the inauguration ceremony that accurate statistics regarding the incidence of acid attack is hard to find. However, among the total numbers nearly 57 % of acid victims in Bangladesh are women while 17% are children and 26 % men.
The incidence is greater in rural than in urban areas. Majority of the victims are usually the good-looking young girls. Males were relatively less affected. Common causes for attacks against women are refusal to love affairs and the rest is enmity over land properties, and personal reasons. Children are also affected, in most cases because they are the victims of circumstances.
Given current access to treatment and awareness, roughly 64 % of acid accidents are treated. This treatment involves expensive processes such as cosmetic surgery and laser treatment. But surgery does not mean complete recovery. The physical damage done to the individuals is nothing compared to the psychological impairment, which is extremely difficult for the survivors to break through. The real challenge in treating an acid survivor is rehabilitation- the arduous task of establishing the individual back in to the society.
Acid survivors need to be empowered with skills. The social system however does not help acid survivors to apply for conventional jobs. It is a harsh reality that no matter how sympathetic people are to the acid survivors, they would not employ an acid victim as a corporate receptionist, secretary, home governess, schoolteacher or supervisor. Acid survivors need to be empowered with skills that will not only give them financial independence but also psychological confidence.
Azad another acid survivor from Dhaka explains the social problem that an acid survivor has to endure, "Incidents like this can ruin the entire family of the victim. My mother died of heart failure because she could not bear to see me suffer. There was a potential marriage proposal for my younger sister. The party walked away when they heard of my incident." Azad who was attacked around a year ago gave details of how the legal system of the country is not very sympathetic to people like them. "According to the law, the defendant of an acid attack case is not eligible for bail and the case must reach verdict within 9 months. It has been one and half years and I still did not get a verdict in my case".
Azad also explains that those who run the legal system are mostly to blame for this delay: "In the court you have to pay a bribe for everything; otherwise the work is not done on time. Even the charge sheet is not filed until the victim's family pays money." Azad's dilemma is twofold, "The attacker lodged a case against me saying that I wanted to throw acid on him and hurt myself accidentally. Bearing the expenses of two cases is really ruining me". Azad took a vow to work for eradicating acid violence from the country and is now working with the ASF.
ASF was established in 1999 to help victims of acid attacks. The organisation provides medical treatment, legal aid, and social rehabilitation support to survivors and promotes awareness about acid violence.
Chairperson of ASF, advocate Sigma Huda says, "The supply and selling of acid must be stopped. There are laws such as Acid Control Act existing in the country. However, those in the legal system responsible for implementing the laws are not doing their job, which is one of the major obstacles in eradicating acid violence. Strict monitoring of acid import and selling is very crucial but it is missing from our system."
One of the major barriers faced by ASF is providing treatment for the survivors, which is very expensive, says Huda. "We want to build a hospital that will provide complete medical support for the acid victims like facilities for immediate acid burns and Operation Theatre for reconstruction," Huda relates. "We applied to the government for a piece of land to build the hospital but we did not get any reply," she informs.
"The most challenging part after treatment is helping the survivors to rebuild their lives, re-establish their places in the society. It is not possible if the society does not accept acid survivors normally," mentions Huda.
ASF urges visitors to help the acid survivors by purchasing at least two photos from the exhibition and take part in the fight against this heinous crime and also by providing acid survivors a job in their office spaces.
By Shahnaz Parveen
BY Sherifa Ahmed
Yoghurt 3 cups
Salt to taste
Pudina (mint) leaves paste 5/6 tbsp
Cumin (jeera) powder 1/2 tsp
In a bowl whisk yoghurt with salt and cumin powder. Add the mint leaves. Refrigerate for an hour. Sprinkle mint leaves and serve as an accompaniment to any dish.
Fried Brinjal Cooked in Gravy
Small Brinjal 500 gm
Onions 100 gm diced and ground to a paste
Salt 1 tsp Turmeric powder 1tsp
Chilli powder 1 tsp
Ginger powder 1 tsp
Oil for frying
Shahi jeera 1 tsp
5 gm Tamarind soaked in water
Water 300 ml
Green coriander leaves finely chopped.
Cut the brinjals lengthwise into four pieces and immerse in water (to avoid blackening). In a bowl, mix the onions paste with the salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder and ginger powder and set aside. Heat the oil in a pan, Sauté
the shahi jeera and fry the brinjals til they turn crisp, Add the onion paste. Squeeze the tamarind in the water, strain and add the solution to the fried brinjals. Add the water and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. Garnish with the coriander leaves serve hot.
1/2 kg baby potatoes, boiled and peeled
Oil for frying
1/2 kg yoghurt
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
3 big cardamoms
3 small cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp ginger powder
3 gm fresh ginger
Salt to taste
500 ml water
1/4 bunch fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
1/4 bunch fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the potatoes. Set aside to cool. Puncture the potatoes with a fork. Heat the yoghurt in a pan, stirring continuously. Add the chilli powder, turmeric powder, cardamoms, cinnamon, ginger powder, fresh ginger and salt. Fry for a while, add the water and allow to simmer. Add the fried potatoes and cook on slow heat 'under dum' for 15 minutes. Garnish with green coriander and mint leaves.