Tuesday, October 28, 2008


"It's the smell I remember. Shahnaz's face -- what was left of it -- reeked of a day old barbeque, left out in the rain. Her flesh was a mess of charred meat: her skin, the soft flesh of her cheeks, and the bones beneath had been burned away. Her nose was gone. Her lips hung down over her chin like melted wax. Her left eyelid couldn't close, so it watered all the time in an endless stream of tears. Shahnaz -- who was 21 years old -- had been punished by having acid thrown in her face. Her crime was to be a Muslim woman who wanted to be treated as equal to a man. Shahnaz loved education -- especially science, and poetry. But when she got married -- at the insistence of her family -- her husband ordered her to stop schooling and start breeding. "You are a woman, that is your only job," he said. But she refused. She wanted to work for herself, and enrich her mind. So she kept going to school, despite his beatings and ragings and threats. So one day her husband and his brothers carefully gathered up battery acid, pinned her down, and hurled it into her face. She ended up in the Acid Survivor's Foundation in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where I saw her earlier this year. In Bangladesh, acid attacks on "uppity" women are epidemic, peaking in 2002 with more than 500 women having their faces burned off. Fewer than 10 percent of the attackers are ever convicted, because juries and judges say the women bring it on themselves by wearing 'revealing' clothes, or refusing to obey men. Munira Rahman, director of the foundation, explains ..." (Yahoo News, 23 October) RD

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