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Saving Face (Review)

This documentary was one of those which you had to watch with a box of tissue beside you. The stories told by the brave victims of acid attacks were ones so difficult to listen to. The documentary focussed on two ladies, Zakia and Rukhsana. Their stories were two of hundreds of common cases that are silently endured by the people of Pakistan.

Acid attacks are often random attacks either led by the husbands of these women, their in-laws, or someone hired by the aforementioned parties. Refuges have been set up for these women, who are shunned by their families. These women are forced to cover their faces for the disfigurement caused by the burns are so severe, that people are drawn to stare at them.

Zakia’s burns disfigured her face so much, that she lost sight in her left eye, her lips reformed at an angle and her eye socket had completely dissolved. All you could see was a layer of skin on that area. What was even more difficult to watch, was how she yearned for a lawyer to represent her. She’s been searching someone to fight her case for free, as money was not freely available.

When Zakia’s husband was questioned, his father was standing beside him. His father accused Zakia of having an affair! SubhanAllaah! Though he did not verbally admit to this crime, it was as though they were saying she got what she deserved! Zakia was completely innocent of such accusations; but had she not been – this attack still could never be justified. This was something which her husband seemed to not understand.
Her daughter stated: “people, instead of supporting us, abuse us”. SubhanAllaah. The victims are victimised further. Their disfigurements not only bring the attention of unwelcomed eyes, but abuses are hurled at them day in, day out. Thus, these victims are forced to cover their faces with huge glasses and niqaabs.

Rukhsana’s case was a little different, albeit still related to an acid attack. Her difficulties were caused by the involvement of her in-laws. Rukhsana stated how her sister in law drowned her in petrol, her mother in law set fire to her and her coward of a husband threw acid onto her. He then denied this and claimed she burnt herself.

But just when you thought this was as bad as her story could get, it got worse. She broke down as she told how she and her children left her in-laws, to return to her father’s home. However, circumstances were such that her father was not wealthy and her children fell ill. Thus, for the health of her children, she returned to that very family who burnt her alive – and left her to burn. She returned to that very family who provided her with no love, security, respect or honour. She risked her life, to keep her children alive. SubhanAllaah.

The victims of acid attacks attended a conference, which involved the parliament of Pakistan. They wanted a change to the law. Rukhsana made a heart breaking speech. Her words were ever so beautiful, filled with intense emotions, truth and plea for help. She stated, “…even our own people do not recognise us anymore, this is such an injustice to us. Someone must stop these brutal people who made us into the living dead. Oh my fellow countrymen, my lawmakers, my government; your daughters seek justice from you…”

Your ‘daughters’ seek justice from you. Profound statement!

So, alhamdulillaah – Allaah hears their prayers. Before the government decided to take action, Islamic Help arranged Dr. Jawad of Britain to help these women. He was the plastic surgeon who completed pioneering work on Katie Price – an acid burn victim of the UK.

Upon hearing this, Zakia stated: “…this is going to be my rebirth…”. SubhanAllaah. The excitement was beautiful to watch. You could feel that they felt their hopes and prayers were being answered.

Unfortunately for Zakia, her eye couldn’t be saved. The acid burnt right through it, not even allowing the socket to hold a glass eye. But nonetheless, a smile returned to her face which was allowed as the Dr. Jawad loosened the skin around her lips, and in a few months, her nose would be worked on. Zakia was given a prosthetic eye, which was attached to some glasses. She, for the first time since the attack, was able to walk out the house showing her face. She was ever so grateful and could not stop thanking the Lord and the doctor.

Rukhsana could not be worked on. She discovered she was pregnant, thus her surgery had to be postponed. She, with much difficulty, stated: “I’m only living for my child – but they stole her from me too. It’s better to die than live like this..” No one deserves to feel what these women have been forced to feel. Still, they woke every day, thanked the Lord and carried on with their day-to-day lives. Their belief, faith, strength and courage were indeed admirable. They were nothing short of an inspiration to many! Rukhsana gave birth to a baby boy, upon whom she prayed he never turns out to be like his father. She was promised that in 6 months, she will too receive this pioneering treatment.

Near the end of the documentary, we were told that Rukhsana’s husband did receive a sentence, and Zakia’s husband received two life sentences!! Zakia’s case was the first to be tried under this new legislation! She was able to breathe peacefully, knowing that justice has been served. That said, there are no numbers of life sentences that can ever return that which these victims lost. No numbers of sentences could ever return them to their original lives – but at least, they know they can move on knowing that these cowards are locked up – as animals should be.

We ask that you remember these ladies in your prayers. May He increase them in their faith, their strength, their courage and their success. May He provide them with good in both worlds, and let these women see justice in both worlds. Acid attacks not only burn the surface of these victims, but their destroyed internally too. There are many faces to domestic violence, and indeed, this is one of them.

Our brothers and sisters are suffering globally. Our brothers and sisters are crying out for help – we need to give them this help. We need to stop this heinous crime, wherever it is taking place. We – just like Islamic help – need to be their strength, support and solace. For without us, they will continue to suffer alone.

Watch full documentary here.

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