The Accounts of Eight Acid-Burnt Women
Victims of acid burns spend their lives being looked at in a different way. For some, there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. Some of them are undergoing treatment and some are fighting to survive; crippled by the of poverty they are in. Their guardians, usually just as poor, are scared about their future.
Recently, I visited the homes of all the acid victims and spent time talking to the victims and their guardians. In the middle of the conversation, most of the victims burst into tears. The candid discussions often turned to heartrending episodes.
Bilkis, daughter of Abdul Mozid of Hat Khalishpur bazaar in Moheshpur Upazila, became a victim to acid crime in 1999.
Bilkis shared with me that Utpal, son of Krishno, and Shahid, son of Arman Sardar, of the same village often irritated her on the way to school. They even used abusive language to tease her. But Bilkis ignored them. At one stage Utpal tried to woo her but she rejected his proposal.
At her rejection, Utpal grew into a rage and with Shahid as an accomplice, threw acid at Bilkis through her bedroom window where her cousin Nurjahan, and aunt Rekha were asleep on the bed.
Bilkis has not yet recovered completely. Even after prolonged treatment, the supple beauty of her lovely face has not returned. Not only has she lost her facial splendor, but has also been suffering from ear complications.
Bangladeshi doctors do not have the tools or the expertise to cure the disease Bilkis is suffering from, and she feels that she needs to go abroad for medical support.
She studies in class 9 in Moheshpur Girl's High School and her younger brother Nazmul is a student of Moheshpur Secondary School. Bilkis wants to continue her studies but she wonders how her poor father will meet the tuition fees alongside their family expenses.
Abdul Mozid, Bilkis's father, heaving a sigh, said, “I have got Bilkis admitted in class 9 in Moheshpur Girl's High School, because no one wants to marry Bilkis after seeing her Deformed face.” He added, “Even if any one is interested, he wants a huge dowry. Besides, she is suffering from ear complications.”
Abdul Mozid also told that a girl by the name of Nurjahan, who was asleep with Bilkis and got seriously burnt as well on the very night, is undergoing treatment at Florida now.
So Bilkis would continue her study and wait to regain her nomal appearance. Maybe someday there will be a man whose great heart will stretch out to save Bilkis from her awful plight.
On the same day, I visited another acid victim: Rawshanara, a house wife of Boga village under Moheshpur upazila.
Rawshanara, wife of Mofazzel Kazi of Boga village and mother of 4 children, fell victim to acid crime on March, 1998.
When asked about her acid attack, she alleged that Nazmul Islam, son of Santosh Mondol of the same village occasionally made advances towards her. He often irritated her. As Rawshanara denied him, Nazmul decided to harm her pride of beauty forever. Nazmul illegally managed acid and threw on her while she, her sons and husband were asleep. Rawshanara's face was deformed and she lost one of her eyes. Although she is under treatment, she is about to lose her only remaining eye.
Mofazzel, Kazi Rawshanara's husband said that he has spent a lot of money and has even sold a lot of their belongings for her treatment. Now, she needs a major operation to save her only eye.
Just when Shamima's aspirations were taking shape and the world seemed full of possibilities, her dreams and everything she wanted were shattered as she was forcibly married off to a much older, heartless man. She was only 14 years of age in early 1996, a and was a student of class 8. This adolescent girl went to live with her husband and in-laws with a heavy heart. Being only a child, Shamima became very frightened with her husband's advances. She could not dare to go to her in laws and express her fear. Rumors were spread across the village that she has a love affair someone else. Shamima's husband threatened to attack her with acid for revenge.
The incident happened at around 2am on September 14, 1996. Shamima was sleeping at her bedside window in the father's house. Suddenly, she felt as if her whole face was on fire. Hearing her screams, her neighbours rushed towards the home and caught her husband red handed. Her husband has been sentenced to 32 years rigorous imprisonment. She is now an intermediate student and started receiving sewing training. She started an organization named Oikyo Nari Kalyan Shangstha with 43 deprived women of her village, 25 of them physically disabled. Even after prolonged treatment, she is not yet fully recovered. She has not been remarried.
Ambia, a fatherless girl, became a victim of acid crime on May 5, 1999 after she refused Azad, son of Kheder Ali of Natima village under Moheshpur upazila. Her burn injuries were so bad, that she cannot even move easily. This problem was further complicated because she was poor and could not afford good treatment. She is spending a life utterly miserable, with only her mother at her side.
Another acid victim, Salma, was a student of class five only. Her cousin, Motaher Hossain, son of Kalu Mollah of Kanchanpur village of Magura district, threw acid on her face after there was a land feud between the two families.
Salma said that her father had sold all his belonging to treat Salma. But she has not yet recovered completely. There are sores in her ear and her left eye is on the verge of losing sight. She wishes desperately for financial assistance for her treatment.
Bulbuli Khatun Sumi, daughter of Mahatap Sheikh of Dariapur village under Harinakundo upazila, had been suffering ever since her husband, Rezaul Karim, threw acid on her February 5, 2006. Her husband has been demanding dowry from his father in law and used to beat up her. As Sumi's father was a poor man, he failed meet his son in law's demands and Sumi had to suffer the dire consequences of his father's inability. Her husband has also been sentenced to 32 years of rigorous imprisonment.
Another acid burn victim, Ratna, daughter of Narayn Chandra Mondol of Bamolia village of the Sadar district, became the target of Amal Sikder, son of Aboni Sikder of the same village after she refused his proposal. This heinous man threw acid on her at 12.30am on October 13, 1999. While talking to me, Ratna burst into tears and said she has no ways to undo what has happened to her. She is now an intermediate student. “Nobody wants to marry me because of the acid burn spots on my body; I did not know what fate had in store for me. My father is unable to bear my educational expenses. I still often feel the pain of my burn injuries.”
Latifa Khatun, daughter of Sabdul Mia of Nad Kundu village was approached by her elder sister's husband Shayamun, son of Bazlu Biswas of the same village. After she refused, Shayumun decided to punish her by burning her face with acid. She does not come outside because of her deformed appearance. Her chances of marriage are almost zero. While talking to me, she said, “I do not want to live anymore. I have lost everything.” The acid thrower's father, Bazly Biswas, settled the incident simply by writing a plot of land of 2 bighas in the name of the victim Latifa Khatun.
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