Rebuilding lives scarred by acid

The victims of acid attacks in Bangladesh speak of their struggle for survival.



    Hundreds of Bangladeshi women are the
    victims of acid attacks every year

    In a quiet suburb of Dhaka two young women walk through a dirt lane to work. But this is no ordinary place of employment. Behind the gates lies a world of torment.

    The building is the headquarters of the Acid Survivors Foundation. Each year hundreds of people are being horribly disfigured in Bangladesh through attacks with sulfuric acid.

    They are committed either for revenge or for what the attacker sees as defending their honour.

    Many cases, especially in the rural areas of Bangladesh, go unreported. The victims are left scarred, mentally as well as physically, and are often shunned by their families and society.

    Hasina is 20 years old. Five years ago, when she was still a carefree high school pupil, an employee of her father who felt he had been slighted, threw sulphuric acid over her.

    'Better that I died'


    Hasina was left with horrific scarring
    after an attack with sulphuric acid

    The attack left her with terrible disfigurement to her face and chest.

    "When I first saw my face in the mirror I said, 'God why did you keep me alive? It would be better that I died,'" she told us.

    "But now I want to survive and live in society."

    Each year hundreds are horribly disfigured in this way. The figure could be higher but in rural areas attacks are rarely reported for cultural reasons.

    The Acid Survivors Foundation helps rebuild their lives and their physical features as much as possible. But it is an expensive business in one of the world's poorest countries.

    Find out more about the Acid Suvivors Foundation at

    "We need financial support from people," says Monira Rahman, director of the Acid Survivors Foundation.

    "We have many survivors here that we cannot treat in Bangladesh and therefore we need experts to train our plastic surgeons."

    Mostly it is women who are attacked - but not always.



    Durjoy was the victim of acid
    when he was just a month old

    Even seeing the terrible results of the attacks could not prepare us for what Monira showed us next.

    In the medical section of the foundation in a sterile environment we had to don surgical gowns.

    She took me to a small room and a little boy, eyes as big as saucers with a terrible disfigurement.

    When he was just over a month old, his aunt fed him sulphuric acid to try and kill him in a dispute over inheritance.

    It burnt away his tongue, his lips, destroyed most of his mouth, and welded his chin to his chest.

    For five months he had the most basic of treatment - it was a miracle he survived. Today they call him Durjoy, meaning Invincible.

    "His mouth is completely destroyed – he can’t talk," Monira Rahman told us.

    "He just can make some sounds. He’s trying to say something but he cannot express that and through his eyes he’s expressing. His eyes are so strong, so strong. He’s saying everything through his eyes – it’s amazing, amazing."



    Professor Burd is hoping treatment will
    give Durjoy a chance of a normal life

    Hoping to save Durjoy’s life and rebuild his future, the Acid Survivors Foundation has flown him to a hospital in Hong Kong.

    On Wednesday he underwent the first of a series of life-saving operations.

    "With the treatment, I think Durjoy’s life expectancy is going to be normal," said Professor Andrew Burd, Chief of Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Hong Kong’s Prince of Wales hospital.

    "Without the treatment, the situation is far more serious, and potentially he may get into a stage where he is having repeated infections, problems with his breathing and his life expectancy may be seriously limited"

    And the initial outlook is good. Durjoy responded well to the first-round of surgery. The 12-hour procedure freed up his tongue, inserted grafts in his mouth and rediscovered his chin, Burd told Al Jazeera.

    But he faces many more operations over the next two years. The costs could run up to $100,000.

    The surgeons are offering their services for free, but there are still many hospital expenses to cover.

    Until last week, Durjoy’s entire world was found within the four walls of one room. Now at least, he has a chance to reach for the future.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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