Pakistani acid victim commits suicide

2012-03-28 16:03

Islamabad - Pakistani acid attack victim Fakhra Younus had endured more than three dozen surgeries over more than a decade to repair her severely damaged face and body when she finally decided life was no longer worth living.

The 33-year-old former dancing girl - who was allegedly attacked by her then-husband, an ex-lawmaker and son of a political powerhouse - jumped from the sixth floor of a building in Rome, where she had been living and receiving treatment.

Her March 17 suicide and the return of her body to Pakistan on Sunday reignited furore over the case, which received significant international attention at the time of the attack.

Her death came less than a month after a Pakistani filmmaker won the country's first Oscar for a documentary about acid attack victims.

Younus' story shows how women are sometimes badly mistreated in Pakistan and is a reminder that the country's rich and powerful often appear to operate with impunity.

Younus' ex-husband, Bilal Khar, was eventually acquitted, but many believe he used his connections to escape the law's grip - a common occurrence in Pakistan.

No relief or remedy

More than 8 500 acid attacks, forced marriages and other forms of violence against women were reported in Pakistan in 2011, according to The Aurat Foundation, a women's rights organisation. Because the group relied mostly on media reports, the figure is likely an undercount.

"The saddest part is that she realised that the system in Pakistan was never going to provide her with relief or remedy," Nayyar Shabana Kiyani, an activist at The Aurat Foundation, said of Younus. "She was totally disappointed that there was no justice available to her."

Younus was a teenage dancing girl working in the red light district of the southern city of Karachi when she met her future husband, the son of Ghulam Mustafa Khar, a former governor of Pakistan's largest province, Punjab.

The unusual pairing was the younger Khar's third marriage. He was in his mid-30s at the time.

The couple was married for three years, but Younus eventually left him because he allegedly physically and verbally abused her.

She claimed that he came to her mother's house while she was sleeping in May 2000 and poured acid all over her in the presence of her 5-year-old son from a different man.

Fears of death

Tehmina Durrani, Ghulam Mustafa Khar's ex-wife and his son's stepmother, became an advocate for Younus after the attack, drawing international attention to the case. She said that Younus' injuries were the worst she had ever seen on an acid attack victim.

"So many times we thought she would die in the night because her nose was melted and she couldn't breathe," said Durrani, who wrote a book about her own allegedly abusive relationship with the elder Khar.

"We used to put a straw in the little bit of her mouth that was left because the rest was all melted together."

She said Younus, whose life had always been hard, became a liability to her family, for whom she was once a source of income.

"Her life was a parched stretch of hard rock on which nothing bloomed," Durrani wrote in a column in The News after Younus' suicide.

Younus' ex-husband grew up in starkly different circumstances, amid the wealth and power of the country's feudal elite, and counts Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar as a cousin.

Media criticised

Bilal Khar once again denied carrying out the acid attack in a TV interview following her suicide, suggesting a different man with the same name committed the crime.

He claimed Younus killed herself because she didn't have enough money, not because of her horrific injuries, and criticised the media for hounding him about the issue.

"You people should be a little considerate," said Khar. "I have three daughters and when they go to school people tease them."

In February, Younus said in one of her last interviews that powerful Pakistanis brutally treat ordinary citizens and "don't know how painful they make others' lives".

"I want such people to be treated in the same way" as they treat people whose lives they ruin, she told Geo TV over the telephone from Rome.

Younus was energised when the Pakistani government enacted a new set of laws last year that explicitly criminalised acid attacks and mandated that convicted attackers would serve a minimum sentence of 14 years, said Durrani. She hoped to return someday to get justice once her health stabilised.


"She said, 'When I come back, I will re-open the case, and I'll fight myself', and she was a fighter," Durrani said.

Durrani had to battle with both Younus' ex-husband and the government to send her to Italy, where the Italian government paid for her treatment and provided her money to live on and send her child to school. Pakistani officials argued that sending Younus to Italy would give the country a bad name, Durrani said.

Younus was happy when Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Oscar for her documentary about acid attack victims in February, but was worried about being forgotten since she wasn't profiled in the film, said Durrani.

Durrani said Younus' case should be a reminder that the Pakistani government needs to do much more to prevent acid attacks and other forms of violence against women, and also help the victims.

"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," said Durrani.

  • emokgojoe - 2012-03-28 16:10

    Sad ..really sad.Why do pple still arrange marriages for their kids because most of them end up abused and unhappy...hope the monster who burned her rots in hell.Something must be done in India really

      jowza1 - 2012-03-28 17:06

      erm emokgojoe,india and pakistan are two different countries.hope you got a world map to verify it

  • Ian - 2012-03-28 16:13

    Certain cultures need to evolve, or they will eventually just become irrelevant and die out. Very sad story.

  • LouiseandRoger - 2012-03-28 16:28

    What a coward sick piece of c..p hope he rots in hell and He will

  • Irene - 2012-03-28 16:37

    Absolutely tragic story. Hope the husband dies a long and painful death.

  • jowza1 - 2012-03-28 17:05

    pakistani society,generally speaking,is sick

  • veritas.odium.paret - 2012-03-28 17:19

    If it's not honour killings, it's acid burnings! What's wrong with these guys? Don't they like their women? I mean, I've always believed that middle eastern women are quite beautiful but you'd think they look like ogres considering how some of these guys treat them. The loss of this woman this way and many others who met their ends in the hands of these maniacs is not only tragic but outrageous!!!

      jowza1 - 2012-03-28 17:24

      like i said veritas,the pakis generally are a sick lot,and btw pakis are not middle eastern

      Muhammed - 2012-03-28 17:36

      I share your sentiments...sadly it seems to be embedded in their culture...

      zaatheist - 2012-03-28 19:27

      Allah teaches them to hate women. He even gave them specific scriptural instructions that that women are less than fully human. And the younger the better. Like 9 years old!

      Muhammed - 2012-03-28 19:51

      @ zaatheist?: Do not lie. We all know that you hate religion so don't now become a nuisance. Keep your sick opinions to yourself.

      zaatheist - 2012-03-28 20:08

      Hello Muhammed Ok. Don't believe me. Well let's quote some of you scripture for you. Out of context of course! Wives have the same rights as the husbands have on them in accordance with the generally known principles. Of course, men are a degree above them in status - Sura 2:228 'Isn't the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?' The women said, 'Yes.' He said, 'This is because of the deficiency of a woman's mind.' SO where did I lie? Just asking.

      Muhammed - 2012-03-28 20:23

      Wow!wow wow! You clearly have a queer misunderstanding of Islam yet you proclaim to be a Great Mufasireen of your time. You have never ever failed to astound you. Quoting everything out of context; reading only half of the sentence, with total disregard for the latter half; disjointed understanding of complete are incredible. May I advise you to undertake formal studies of Islam by a Muslim Scholar? I have no doubt that if you approach these studies with clean intentions you will God-willing revert to Islam.

      zaatheist - 2012-03-28 20:53

      @Muhammed Next you will be proclaiming Islam as the great respecter of women's human rights. PAH! You are fooling no one. Of course you religious types always seek refuge in "you don't understand" and "you are quoting out of context". Yeah! Except that just too many Muslims make up their own contexts all the time as it suits them. Your trouble is that we know Islam just too well for your liking. When you meet the unbelievers, smite their necks, then when you have made wide slaughter among them, tie fast the bonds, then set them free, either by grace or ransom, until the war lays down its burdens. - 47:4 Please don't take this literally or out of context. Thanks.

      Muhammed - 2012-03-28 21:24

      Its clear that you reject the Holy Qur'an in totality and it is expected - In the Holy Qur'an God has provided ample descriptions of the characteristics of those people who reject Islam and the final messenger, and unsurprisingly you fit every one of those descriptions. Your very rejection of Islam serves as proof of the miracle of the Holy Qur'an. My greatest fear for you is the perpetual punishment you will experience in the life after death for your rejection of your Creator. My duty towards you is to share with you information of who our Creator is and the encourage you to believe in God. If you take my advice the wrong way than I have done my duty and that the end of that. There is no need for you to blab on about your rejection of God. Having said this, you will have to concede that despite your hatred of Islam, Islam remains the fastest growing religion in the world with Europe having a predominance of white, female reverts. All praise to the Lord that they have seen the light of Islam. Of course you will sneer at them - its what you do best zaatheist. Enough said.

      zaatheist - 2012-03-29 06:00

      @Muhammed You are correct, I reject the koran as wholly nonsense, just a plagiarised version of Christian scripture which is a plagiarised version of Jewish scripture which was plagiarised from earlier primitive belief systems. Like I always challenge the believers in the other scriptures and gods, provide evidence for the existence of you god. Provide compelling evidence and I will view the koran differently. I'm sorry but religion IS a joke when you think about it. There's obviously no god, as there is no Apollo, no Thor, no Vishnu, no Rama, no Wodan, no Isis, no Jesus, no Allah, no gods at all. And an afterlife is also a joke too, about wishful thinking and fear of dying.

      zaatheist - 2012-03-29 07:47

      @Muhammed To plagiarise Homer Simpson - "Suppose you have chosen the wrong god. Every time you go to a mosque you are just making him madder and madder." There are 19 major religions in the world that almost 75% of the world believes in. Only one of those 19 can be the correct path toward eternal life. That means you only have a 5.26% chance of getting it right. How can ypu put so much faith in your religion when the odds are so low?

      Stephen - 2012-03-29 09:48

      @zaatheist, all 19 could be wrong. sorry are wrong.

  • Muhammed - 2012-03-28 17:34

    This is a tragic story and could have been preventable. I wonder if they will ever re-open the case and prosecute the ex-husband for his alleged crime.

  • Luciana - 2012-03-29 07:44

    Humans!? This beautiful planet is housing such monsters!

  • Brigitte - 2012-03-29 08:13

    My heart goes out to this many years of torture.

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