Housewife Monowara Begum (not her real name) had a regular life with her husband and children. Then one day, her life changed in an instant. As a consequence of a longstanding property dispute, she was doused with acid. Today, Monowara is completely blind and disfigured. Her face, neck and other parts of the body will bear the scars of the senseless crime as long as she lives.
Monowara is only one among the many lives that have been ruined by acid violence. Acid attacks are still common in many parts of Bangladesh and the majority of victims are women, most of them aged below 18 years. Children, older women, and men also become victims of acid violence mostly because of property dispute. While property dispute is behind about 22 percent of the acid attacks, most attacks are motivated by the refusal of sexual advances, romantic overtures, marriage proposal, domestic dispute, and dowry. Since most of the attacks take place in the rural areas, the victims often do not get proper medical treatment on time. By the time they make it to the burn units of the hospitals, their organs and limbs get permanently damaged. The aftermath of an acid attack is only the beginning of another new battle as our society is not very welcoming to the survivors. The survivors often face great difficulty in finding work and social acceptance. For young unmarried women survivors, the chance of ever getting married is next to nothing.
The first recorded acid attack in Bangladesh occurred in 1967 when a spurned young man threw acid on a young women’s face for rejecting his marriage proposal. The incidents of acid attack started to increase in the 1980s and reached an alarming level in the 1990s. Thanks to the initiatives of the government, NGOs and human rights organizations, the rate of acid crime was reduced by 74 percent in 2011 compared to 2001-2002. Bangladesh was the first country to pass a law banning acid violence in 2002. Once known to be the country with the highest number of acid attacks and the highest incident rates for women, Bangladesh has since experienced a drastic drop in the occurrence of acid assaults. Acid attacks decreased dramatically to 59 occurrences in 2015 from 494 in 2002, according to the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF). However, even one attack is one too many. Acid violence still remains a problem in rural Bangladesh as young women and children are the primary targets of this vicious crime.
Recently, a new surge has been seen in the acid attacks, especially on women and children. In 2016, 34 women and children became victims of acid attacks. Of them, one woman died. The number of victims was 45 in 2015. According to an estimate of the Mohila Parishad, 89 percent of the attacks were motivated by spurned romantic advances, 18 percent by personal or family rivalry, 7 percent by dowry and 7 percent by the refusal to give permission to husbands for second marriage. Even though women have very little right over the ownership of land, they are being victims of acid attack due to land dispute.
In last 10 years, 39 percent of the women acid survivors were attacked because of land dispute. The first acid attack of 2017 occurred on January 13 in the East Nakhalpara area of Dhaka City. A man named Abdul Quddus threw acid on his wife Aklima Begum, severely disfiguring her face. Currently under treatment at the burn unit of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), Aklima said, “He used to beat me for dowry quite often, yet I never thought he would throw acid on me. How could he do this to me after 22 years of marriage?” Dr. Samanta Lal Sen, consultant plastic surgeon and the director of the plastic surgery and burn unit of DMCH, said, “ Aklima’s face has been completely disfigured. There are severe burns in various places that will require multiple surgeries. Her eyes have been badly damaged as well. She will be under our observation until her burns heal properly.”
On July 21, 2016, a housewife named Lal Banu from Raiganj Thana of Sirajganj, was doused with acid in her own home by her husband’s first wife. She sustained 22 percent burn injuries. Her husband was slightly burned in this attack as well. Lal Banu, who was 7 months pregnant at the time of the attack, was immediately rushed to the local health complex and later transferred to the burn unit of DMCH. On August 4, she gave birth to her child while still admitted in the burn unit. Shelly Akhter, 22, was sleeping with her mother in their slum. Suddenly, a severe burning sensation, coupled with her mother Hosne Ara Begum's scream, woke her up. Even when the locals rushed to their help, they did not realize that they have been doused with acid. The incident occurred on September 27, 2016, in a slum in the polo ground area of Chittagong.
In February 2016, housewife Purnima was doused with acid by her husband for not giving him BDT10,000 as dowry. After 28 agonizing days in hospital, Purnima succumbed to her injuries. Pabna housewife Saika Akhter Dolly, 30, too, was doused with acid by her husband for dowry. In July 2015, a local miscreant from Sharsha, Jessore threw acid on the face of a class seven student after being rejected by her. The girl received severe burn injuries on her face, neck and other parts of the body. None of the perpetrators of these acid attacks have received appropriate punishment. Some of them have already been released on bail and they are living their life out in public.
According to a research of the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), one in three people in Bangladesh is being subjected to acid violence every year. Of the attackers, 99 percent are men. More than 50 percent of the attackers are school drop outs, drug addicts, unemployed and petty criminals. They usually have a superior social and financial status than their victims. They often carry out the attacks in groups, and the girls and women from low-income families become their victims. The consequences of an acid attack go well beyond permanent physical damages. An acid attack survivor has to go through a lot of social harassment. Acid violence affects women more severely than their male counterparts. Their facial disfigurements essentially alienate them from the society. In many cases, their education stops, and marriage becomes an impossible prospect. As a result, their families start to treat them like a burden. Being neglected by society and family, their mental strength crumbles. For the women from poor and impoverished backgrounds, pursuing legal aid and bearing the legal costs are almost impossible. As a result, most of them do not even seek justice. The relaxed attitude and lack of seriousness from law enforcement agencies are obstacles to finding justice for the acid attack survivors. Insufficient proof, out of court settlement, and social pressure often deprive the acid survivors of justice.
Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal Home minister of Bangladesh
Everyone is equal in the eyes of the state. To prevent acid crime, the government has formed the National Acid Control Council (NACC) and District Acid Control Committee (DACC). The district administrator is in charge of the DACC, and it is his responsibility to implement the policies regarding the production, transportation, storage, sale and use of acid. The acid control monitoring cell under the Home Ministry and the acid case monitoring cell under the police headquarters have been set up as well. In the context of the recent surge in acid crime, the acid control council has asked the police department to submit the final reports of the cases. Police are giving various types of explanations, which is why we wanted a more thorough explanation. Acid crime is a serious crime. The government is allotting BDT20 million for the rehabilitation of acid victims every year. To distribute this money properly, we seek lists from the district administrators every year.
Dr. A K M Emdadul Haque Principal of Comilla Education Board Model College
Acid violence is a social disease that stems from vengeance and vindictiveness. Due to its easy availability, anyone can collect acid without much effort. Those who become victims of acid violence have to carry the scars of the attack for the rest of their lives. Some even lose their sights. Usually, the main objective of the attacker is to disfigure their victim so that they can never go back to normal life. Most victims become so traumatized that they can never get over depression and fear. Mass awareness, proper implementation of the law and exemplary punishment can break the curse of acid crime in our society.
Eleven-month-old Sahara is currently admitted in the DMCH burn unit. The acid thrown by miscreats has scalded the entire lower body of this small child. Her parents do not know what future holds for their little girl who will suffer the consequences of the acid attack on her for the rest of her life. Six-month-old Rupali from Sharifpur village in Brahmanbaria was doused with acid by her stepmother.
She sustained 7 percent burn in her body. After enduring unimaginable pain for two days, the little girl passed away at the burn unit of DMCH. At the age of seven months, a little girl named Bubli had to endure the ultimate betrayal by a parent. Her father, who did not want a girl child, poured acid into her mouth, ears, and rectum on July 15, 2011. Miraculously, Bubli survived. Today, she is six years old. Her injuries have left her with speech impairment and permanent burn marks. One of her ears has been completely destroyed. The attack also changed the symmetry of her face, leaving it slightly lopsided.
Bijoy became the victim of an acid attack at the age of only 39 days. Out of sheer jealousy over his birth as a male child, her aunt poured acid into his mouth. The incident occurred on January 19, 2005. Children like Bubli, Rupali and Bijoy are being victims of personal rivalries, domestic arguments, property disputes, etc., between parents. At the very beginning of their lives, they have received life-changing injuries due to acid attack. They have to undergo medical treatment for a few years before they can go back to normal life. As a result, their education and proper development are being greatly hampered.
ASF data showed that since most of the child survivors of acid attack are from impoverished backgrounds, their families cannot afford to bear the cost of long time treatment. As a result, many of these children are being deprived of a normal life. Their disfigurement is turning them into social outcasts. The neglect and crude comments of neighbors and family members are further isolating them. With proper support, the child survivors can have a normal life. Acid survivor Bubli and her mother currently live at the ASF office. Bubli’s mother works for the organization, while Bublu studies at a local primary school. Even with her physical challenges, Bubli is a spirited girl with a lot of hopes for the future.
Acid attack survivors Mithila Pervin and her mother Beauty Khatun from Bogra are waiting for 10 years to receive justice. Similarly, another survivor, Mariam Begum from Narsingdi, is waiting for eight long years. Although the 2002 Acid Crime Control Act mandates a verdict within a period of 90 days from the date of receipt of the file, in reality the implementation of the law is almost nonexistent. While acid violence rate has decreased quite a bit following the enactment of the Acid Control Act and Acid Crime Control Act, the survivors are not receiving appropriate justice. The conviction rate of acid crime is very low in Bangladesh.
According to the Home Ministry statistics, a total of 14 convicted acid attackers were sentenced to death in the last 14 years. However, not a single execution has been carried out so far. Besides, 119 convicts have been sentenced to lifetime imprisonment, while 1,835 have been acquitted of all charges due to insufficient evidence. As per government estimate, 2,057 acid attack cases were filed from 2002 to 2016. Police have prepared final reports of 822 cases by claiming that the allegations of the attacks could not be proven. In only 188 cases has any verdict been announced, while the proceedings of 469 cases are still pending. The Home Ministry statistics and ASF data suggest that acid crime is decreasing in the country. However, most of the identified perpetrators of the previous attacks have been released without any punishment. Only in 25 percent of the cases, the culprits have received punishment.
According to ASF, only one in every 10 acid survivors is lucky enough to see any justice. In 90 percent cases, the perpetrators do not even have to stand trial. In 60 percent cases, the victims are forced to settle the matter out of the court due to pressure from village arbitrators. An inadequate number of under-trained law enforcement officers, who lack the skill to deal with this type of sensitive matter, and corrupt police officers are also making it hard to bring the perpetrators to justice. There are allegations against the police for not accepting the cases easily. There are several incidents where the victims, even after receiving treatment from DMCH burn unit and ASF hospital, were turned away by police. Even when the police accept the case, they tend to overlook the main perpetrator. As a result, those cases eventually end up going nowhere.
On April 26, 2014, Hasina and Kohinur from Hatempur village in Pathorgata, Barguna were doused with acid over a land dispute. A case was filed against 6 people in the local police station. Although the case was filed under the Acid Crime Control Act, police documented the attack as a regular dispute and recommended Act 323 for further proceeding of the case. National Human Rights Commission Bangladesh (NHRCB) has identified several obstacles on the way to proper investigation and justice in acid violence cases. Some of the reasons are- improper investigation by police, not preserving the evidence of the crime properly, procrastination in the settlement of the case, negligence in issuing a medical certificate, refusal by witnesses to give testimony, etc.
The shortage of judges and negligence of government officials further prolong the proceedings of trial. Salma Ali, executive director of the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers’ Association (BNWLA), said. “Many victims cannot access the court to seek justice because of their poverty and lack of knowledge of the legal system. Law is not effective everywhere. Not giving importance to the FIR during the implementation of law weakens the acid violence cases. Many victims do not know anything about compensation. Many cases remain unsolved due to the absence of direct witnesses.” Advocate Kamrunnahar from Naripokkho said, “Even after filing an acid violence case, the plaintiff have to face a lot of hurdles in her way to justice. In many cases, the FIR is not filed properly. The physicians, who give primary treatment to the victims, often do not involve themselves in the cases. There are limitations in the chemical tests. The perspective of the Public Prosecutor (PP) is another concerning fact. Since most of the PPs are appointed based on their political affiliation, they see the cases through political lenses. If the perpetrator and the PP happen to share the same political affiliation, the case loses objective treatment. The court has its own complications. While the cases can be moderately monitored in the lower courts, they lose pace in the high court.”
ASF lawyer Animesh Chandra Sarkar said, “The 2002 Acid Control Act and Acid Crime Control Act look very good on paper, but they are not being implemented properly. The officer in charge of the acid violence case often shows negligence in preparing the final report. They often submit very weak report to the court. There are some complaints against police taking bribe from the perpetrators. Another big problem is that the investigation officers often do not include the names and addresses of the witnesses in the brief description of the final report. In many cases, the final report admits that a crime has taken place, but no evidences have been found against the accused. These issues, along with the procrastination in reaching a verdict, ruin the impact of the legal provisions.”
Mahfuza from Chardipur village in Barisal was a witness to the acid attack on her younger sister Zaynab Khanam Eva. She filed a case as a plaintiff in the local police station and was willing to testify in the court. However, on August 9, 2016, 10-12 miscreants entered her home, and beat her to death. They later threw her body into a nearby pond. Mahfuza had to lose her life only for seeking justice for her younger sister, and the legal system provided her no protection at all.
Selina from Noakhali has a similar story. She was a witness in the acid attack on her younger sister Farhana. Shortly after testifying in the court, Selina herself was doused with acid by the miscreants hired by the perpetrator in her sister's case. Although she survived, she received 15 percent burn injuries, and the left side of her face was completely disfigured. The stories of Mahfuza and Selina prove why witnesses are not willing to testify in courts. Though there are many statutes and laws prevailing in Bangladesh to punish the offender, but there is no law available till date to protect the victims and the witnesses. Poverty, social stigma, harassment, and fear of more violence from culprits force many victims and their families not to seek justice. Advocate Salma Ali said, “Bangladesh does not have any victim and witness protection act. As a result, the plaintiffs and witnesses often step back from the cases.”
Although only licensed users can legally purchase acid in Bangladesh, the law is not being fully implemented. Many non-licensed individuals can still purchase or collect acid in various cheap and easy ways. Generally, the perpetrators use hydrochloric, sulphuric, and nitric acids to carry out attacks. These are the same substances used in industrial applications by many businesses such as jewelry shops, textile mills, battery and soap factories, etc. The miscreants often collect acid from the local businesses by intimidating the business owners. Some business owners willingly sell a small amount of acid to the perpetrators as well.
Rabeya Jewelers is a rather small jewelry shop at Nurjahan Road in the Mohammadpur area of the capital. This small shop requires at least 20 pounds of acid every month, at the cost of BDT65 per pound only. The acid is stored in open containers, and placed in public view. The proprietor of the business said that he buys nitric and sulphuric acid from Tantibazar, as both of the acids are used in jewelry making. While he claimed that he never sells acid to anyone, he admitted that sometimes local miscreants forcefully take away acid from him. According to the Commerce Ministry, approximately 700 tons of acid is being used in Bangladesh every day. Of that, only 35 percent is imported from abroad, and the remaining 65 percent is produced locally. Small shops and factories in every small town and villages use acid. Since the general shops use acid, its availability could not be easier. Many convicted acid attackers admitted that they collected acid from the local shops in their respective localities either by buying or by intimidating the shop owners.
Along with the small local shops, various factories and manufacturing companies use acid as well. Jute mills, textile mills, gold jewelry manufacturers, welding factories, pharmaceutical companies, etc., use acid for various purposes. Acid is widely used for cleaning the boilers in the factories. The carelessness of the licensed acid purchasers and lack of monitoring on the usage of acid is making acid more easily available than it should be. On August 4, 2016, Rupganj police arrested two men named Mujibur Rahman and Rashedul Islam for selling acid to miscreants. Two trucks full of acid were seized from the arrestees’ possession. The two arrestees confessed that 25 other people were involved in the illegal and unlicensed selling of acid. By visiting an imitation bangles factory in Lalbagh, battery factories, car workshop and spare parts shops in Gabtoli, Mohammadpur, Savar and Keranigonj, this reporter found that a small bottle of acid can be purchased with only BDT30. This small amount of acid is enough to destroy the life of a human being.
According to the Acid Control Act, 2002, whoever produces, imports, transports, stores, sells and uses acids without a license could be sentenced to three to 10 years' rigorous imprisonment with fines. People who possess equipment used for producing acids without having the license for them could be sentenced to three to 15 years' rigorous imprisonment with fines. Since many small businesses require very little amount of acid, the business owners do not bother to get a license and purchase acid illegally. Poor government monitoring leads to the selling of acids to unlicensed customers. Taking advantage of the situation, many criminals buy acid and use it in heinous criminal activities. Former president of Comilla Shocheton Nagorik Committee, Badrul Huda Zenu, said, “During the investigation of acid attack cases, the investigating officer often overlooks the source of the acid used in the attack. The sole focus of the investigation seems to rely upon whether the accused have thrown acid or not. Unless the sources and suppliers of acid are identified, availability of illegally obtained acid cannot be controlled.”
Pabna: Over 250 shops and factories in the nine upazilas of Pabna district use acid on a regular basis. Among them, 50 are located in Sujanagar, 75 in Bera, 65 in Bhangura, 72 in Faridpur, 96 in Chatmohor, 84 in Sathia and 126 in Ishwardi. Only 15 of these companies have license to purchase acid. Most of the unlicensed acid usages are occurring in the jewellery factories. Besides, 61 battery factories are also purchasing illegal acid. The workers of almost all of these factories are illiterate or semi-literate. As a result, they are not quite aware of the harmful effects and misuse of acid. So, the risk of handling acid without any regulation is quite high in these factories.
Bhola: Thousands of business organizations in Bhola are using acid, while only 20 of them have the license to buy, sell and use acid. The license section of the district administration office said, only one new organization received license last year. Every day, acid-laden containers are being carried out on launches, ferries, and sea-trucks of the seven upazilas in this district. The acid consignments come from Chittagong, Barisal, and Dhaka. The organizations that use this acid are giving monthly bribe to local administration and law enforcement agencies to transport this acid.
Sirajganj: Along with handloom industries, jewelry and battery industries also use acid. Over 10,500 factories and business organizations in Sirajganj use acid. This area also has a high level of acid violence. The cheap and easy access to acid is contributing to the acid crimes in this area. However, this area also has a rising number of new acid license holders. According to the district Acid Control Committee report, the number of acid licenses increased from 31 to 81 within only two months at the end of 2016. Santosh Kumar, the general secretary of the District Jewelry Samitee, said, “Previously the jewelry makers used to polish the jewelries with acid. To prevent environmental pollution, five polish factors have been established so far. A dealer has been appointed to ensure the regulated selling of acid. As a result, the chance of unregulated selling of acid is pretty slim in our sector.” Although the district administration talked about conducting mobile court drives to monitor the sale and use of acid, it has not been implemented yet. All the UNOs have been directed to make lists of the unregulated acid buyers and sellers, and take appropriate actions.
Rangpur: According to the assessment of Brac, 25 acid crimes have occurred in the Pirgacha area, 12 in Pirganj, 7 in Badargank, 8 in Kawnia, 6 in Gangachar, 10 in Mithapukur, and 8 in the Sadar Upazila of this district. While the gold shops are supposed to have a license for using nitric and sulphuric acids to melt gold, most of the shops are operating without any license. Of the 80 shops in the Betpotti, Dewanbari Road, Paripotti and DC Hawkers’ Market, only 17 have acid license. Anyone can buy acid from the local chemical shops. Moreover, the acid used in the battery of the mike shops is being handed to the miscreants.
Natore: From Kapuriapotti to Pilkhana to Lalbazar area of Natore town, jewelry shops are using unregulated acid day and night. The gas emitted from this burnt acid is causing severe air pollution in the adjacent residential areas. Almost 250 families in the area are being severely affected by the pollution and developing various types of respiratory diseases. Jewelry business began in this area in the early 1950s. According to the Jewelry Owners’ Committee’s estimate, over 150 jewelry shops are located in this area. Smoke from the burnt nitric and sulphuric acid is spreading across the adjacent areas. Children and elderlies are developing various skin, respiratory and other diseases. Local resident Aklima Begum said, “Pedestrians and outsiders cannot stay more than half an hour in this area without sneezing and coughing. Almost every family in this area has at least one asthma patients.” Another local named Anisul Islam said, “Not only the air is being polluted, the leaves and fruits in the trees are losing their colors. The roofs of the tin-shed houses have been stained and damaged by the chemical emission.”Acid trader Yusuf Ali said that he sells at least 3 tons of acid every month. The local jewelry factories use at least 5-6 maunds of acid per month. Natore District Jewelry Owners’ Association president Swapan Poddar said that all the factories have taken license for using acid from the district administration. However, they did not receive any permission slip from the Department of Environment (DoE), he admitted. DoE Rajshahi division director Nazmul Haque said, “There should not be any jewelry factory in the residential areas. As per the existing rules, every factory is required to get permits from DoE before their establishment. None of the factories in Natore have that permit. Strict action will be taken against these factories.”
Gazipur: The toxic chemical emitted from an acid factory named Goodwill Basic Chemical Private Ltd., in the Doanichala area of Kaliakair, Gazipur is posing a severe threat to the residents of five adjacent villages as they are developing various types of respiratory diseases. The toxic gas emitted from these factories is hurting the cultivation of crops and vegetables in the area. The tin houses are being damaged. Despite protests through human chains, processions, etc., by the locals demanding closure of the factory and repeated requests to the the DoE authorities, no result has been seen so far. The factory was established eight years ago, amidst strong protest of the locals. During that time, the factory authority assured the locals that they are going to produce paint, not acid in the factory. However, they have been producing toxic acid from the very beginning. A school named Success Laboratory School is located near the factory. Students of this school are constantly falling sick because of being constantly exposed to the toxic chemicals. On the other hand, the local farmers are not being able to cultivate a good harvest. Local farmer Nawajesh Ali said, “Due to the toxic exposure of the acid, my eggplant buds on 110 decimals of land died.” However, the director of Goodwill Basic Chemical Private Ltd., Sihabuddin, denied the allegations. He said. “The factory is not harming the locals by any means. Sometimes a very little amount of acid might leak out from the pipelines and get mixed in the air. We are taking precautions to avoid such occurrences. We have all the necessary government permissions to establish the factory.”
Comilla: From 2008 to until now, 135 people became victims of acid violence in Comilla. Of them, 13 succumbed to their injuries. On November 6, 2008, a bus and an acid-laden truck collided on Dhaka- Chittagong Highway near the Korpai area of Burichang Upazila. The collision claimed 19 lives and left 30 people with severe injuries. Member-secretary of the District Acid Control Council and Additional Superintendent of Police, Tanvir Salehi Emon, said, “We arrange one meeting per month to prevent acid crime. Besides, the acid traders are being reminded to take necessary precautions for the acid business. Last year, the National Acid Control Council fund provided a BDT-20,000 help to 20 victims.”
Dr. Asaduzzaman (Asad Shams) A physician of Maryland Medical Center in Sydney, Australia
In Bangladesh, one acid attack occurs every three days. The harrowing condition of the acid victims undergoing treatment in the burn unit of DMCH is unspeakable. Some have lost their eyes, while some have been severely disfigured. Some of the victims have open wounds all over their bodies. There is no word to describe their sufferings, and no one can fathom the severity of their conditions unless they see it with their own eyes. We have to focus on two things: prevention of acid violence and ensuring proper treatment for the acid survivors. There are various discussions going on about finding out ways to prevent acid violence. When it comes to treatment, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. Since most of the acid crimes occur in the rural areas, the sufferers often do not get immediate medical attention. The treatment they receive is generally highly inadequate. However, we should not be disappointed by the setbacks. We do not have any other option but to stand up against this heinous crime. As a society, we have to stand by the acid survivors. Only by doing so will we be able to eradicate this menace.
The act of acid throwing not only stems from the intention to mutilate, maim, torture, or kill the victim, it is also directed towards destroying the mental strength and social position of the victim. The scars of acid attack are not only skin-deep, they go to the core of the affected person’s soul. However, many of the affected women have refused to stay as victims. They not only survived the initial attacks but triumphed over all the adversities thrown their way.
Acid survivor Mazeda Begum was attacked by one of her distant cousins on June 9, 1998. The attack left her with severe facial burns and injuries to her eyes. She was eight months pregnant at the time of the attack. When she came back home shortly after receiving the primary treatment, her husband left her and remarried. Her attacker fled from the area and was never caught. With a newborn child, disfigured body and no prospect ahead, Mazeda sought help from the Acid Survivors Foundation. The Foundation gave her BDT100,000 to buy a piece of land. They also took her abroad for better treatment. Later, local NGO Aid Comilla gave her a cow, and DACC gave her BDT10,000. Aid Comilla also gave her a job, and a BDT10,000 interest- free loan. The incomes from the leased land, the cow, and her salary have given Mazeda a financial footing she never dreamt of. Her son is receiving education allowance from ASF. Mazeda has turned her luck around with her hard work and the help she received from the various organizations. Now she is solely focused on raising her son as an educated, good citizen.
Popi Rani Das from Goptapara village in Osmaninogor Upazila, Sylhet had a rough start in life. She was married off at a young age. To contribute to her family, she took a job at the local clinic in 2000. However, a local miscreant started to harass her on her way home. When she strongly rebuffed his advances, the miscreant got enraged and threw acid on her face. Poly lost sight in one eye, and become severely disfigured in her face. While the physical scars healed soon after receiving treatment, her world was turned upside down. She lost her job, and her husband left her. Her family and relatives also turned away from her. Severely depressed Poppy contemplated suicide a couple of times but restrained herself because of her daughter. She then took a BDT50,000 loan from Brac and started a dairy farm. With the earnings, she bought four decimals of land and built a house on it. She never had to look back since then as her financial and social situation continued to prosper. As recognition of her triumph against adversity, she was awarded the prestigious “Joyita” award by the Bangladesh government in 2016.
Acid attack survivor Fazila has been working in the customer care center of Grameen phone, the country’s top mobile service providing company, for three years. The Grameen phone authority has awarded her twice for her outstanding performance. Following treatment under ASF, six acid survivors have been appointed by Grameen Phone, 1 by beauty shop Persona, 1 by Save the Children, 1 by BRAC, 2 by International Security Service limited, 1 by Water Aid, and 1 by the Freedom Foundation. Various other acid survivors are also working in various organizations or running their own businesses.