ISLAMABAD: Pakistani acid attack victim Fakhra Younus had endured more than three dozen operations 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 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 furor over the case, which received significant international attention. 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 highlights the mistreatment many women face in Pakistan’s conservative, male-dominated culture 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.
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 organization. Because the group relied mostly on media reports, the figure is probably undercounted.
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 two were married for three years, but Younus eventually left him amid allegations of physical and verbal abuse. 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 by a different man.