Karachi: An acid burn victim’s tale of horror
KARACHI: Kulsoom’s face has been so badly burnt with acid that she cannot even cry. Her irises have been reduced to a shrivelled up black dot, not gleaming like an ordinary person’s would be, but faded and dried up. Her eyelids have been dissolved and the rest of her face has melted and deformed her appearance. Once she was a beautiful woman, a mother of six children, married to a man who would eventually bring her to this point in life. Today a drop of tear appears on the surface of her eye socket, and drips down her face as she is made to recall the night of Chand Raat when her husband did this to her.
“I had had enough of the madness with that man,” she says of Abdul Jabbar, a resident of the Dhobi Ghat area. “There were times when he was so violent to me, and then there were times when he used to just abuse and swear to me for no reason. The children, he hated. My little eleven–year–old daughter would come to him and show him affection, but he would literally kick her away. As for my son, once when he broke a vase he tied him upside down, and beat him up with a stick. People tried stopping him, but he would not ever stop and even listen to anyone.”
Kulsoom says that the man was a mechanic by profession, but he did not work. Rather he used to slack off often and hang around in street corners with bad company, sometimes gambling, sometimes getting drunk, and watching pornography with many of his friends with similar interests. At home, he was not even once good to his family.
“Sometimes he would tie me up in the blazing sun, outside in our courtyard, and sprinkle water on me from time to time. Other times, he used to tie me up to the window and I would stay there the entire day under his ‘vigilance’. None of my children could help me, though they tried to tell me to leave him, but I always said that I have nothing to do with this man, why should I bother making a police case out of what he does.”
Kulsoom’s ignorant attitude towards this kind of sadistic treatment by her husband, points to a serious lack of awareness among women about domestic violence.
Kulsoom said that she left her husband, after he threatened to ‘do away with her’. “There were people over from Balochistan, where some of my family is,” she told The News in an exclusive interview. “Afterwards he kept saying ‘I’ll show you what I’m going to do to you when these people leave’, and he kept repeating this with no reason. Sometimes, I think he was just insane. Finally, when they left, I challenged him to do anything he wanted, but he didn’t. The next day however, I packed my bags and left.”
“I stayed at my parents’ house (Own Heights, near Essa Nagri), for some time, but soon he started coming there and asked me why I had left, and urged me to come back, but he did not even promise that he wouldn’t hurt me. He just kept ordering me to come back. On the night of September 30, which was Chand Raat, while I was in a room alone, he barged in, and threw acid on my face, and it went into my eyes too. Now I cannot even see.”
Though Abdul Jabbar has been arrested on Thursday night by the Aziz Bhatti Police, there are several men out there perhaps even worse than Jabbar, many who are not even mentally stable, who could do worse things to their wives and there is no system which can keep these people in check.
In a press conference held by Zia Awan of Madadgar and Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid (LHRLA) in collaboration with the Burns Centre, Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) and Friends of Burns Centre, he stated that there were about 2,000 cases of domestic violence since the past eight years that had been reported, but there were a very large number which remained unreported.
“There must be about 12,000 of these cases which have gone unreported and are mostly burns cases, and even then not all are acid burns,” said Awan. “In the case of Rubina, another recent victim, her husband threw petrol over her and set her on fire. Some of them make excuses saying that they are burnt by the stove and that it was accidental. But we know usually better than this that this is not the case.”
In the conference, Awan complained about the police system and said that the force was mostly involved in protocols, and did not respond well to the problems of the citizens. He said that the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) was always unavailable, and that the new police authorities were callous towards the citizens’ problems.
Regarding this issue, the CCPO told The News, that this was more of a social problem which was deep rooted and the police could only nab the killers, but could not really play a role in changing the mentality of the criminals especially if they had no evidence against them.
“The media and the society have to get rid of this problem and play a very strong role in doing so,” he said. “This is not a new problem. It has been there since some time now. As far as accusations on the police regarding hesitation in filing the FIR is concerned, this is incorrect and I see no reason why any police officer would refrain from doing so. Do they hate women? I think women and men both need more awareness.”