Former dancing girl commits suicide 12 years after horrific acid attack which left her looking 'not human'
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.
Life-changing: Fakhra Younus, before the horrific acid attack in May 2000, was left heavily facially disfigured after having acid thrown in her face
The 33-year-old former dancing girl -- who was allegedly attacked by her then-husband, an ex-parliamentarian 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 reignited furore over the case, which received significant international attention at the time of the attack. Younus' story not only drives home the woeful plight of many women in conservative Muslim Pakistan, it is also a reminder of how the country's rich and powerful operate with impunity.
Younus' ex-husband, Bilal Khar, was eventually acquitted, but many believe he used his connections to escape the law's grip. "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 Karachi when she met her future husband, the son of Ghulam Mustafa Khar, a former governor of 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 left him because he 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 five-year-old son.
Tehmina Durrani, Ghulam Mustafa Khar's ex-wife 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. "We used to put a straw in the little bit of her mouth that was left because the rest was all melted together."
"Her life was a parched stretch of hard rock on which nothing bloomed," Durrani wrote in a column after Younus' suicide.
Pakistan's Saving Face Saving Face is a 2011 documentary film about acid attacks on women in Pakistan. The film was directed by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Daniel Junge. The film was awarded the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject), making its director, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Pakistan's first Oscar winner.
The film follows London-based Pakistani plastic surgeon, Dr. Mohammad Jawad as he journeys to Pakistan to perform reconstructive surgery on survivors. Saving Face also broaches the subject of the under-reporting of acid violence due to cultural and structural inequalities towards women from Pakistani Muslim men. The film also features two women attacked by acid and their struggle for justice and healing.
8,500 The number of acid attacks and other forms of violence against women in Pakistan in 2011, according to The Aurat Foundation, a women's rights organisation.