Meet Mumtaz, an Acid Attack Survivor

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Mumtaz, an Afghani girl in her 20s, lives in a constant state of fear after she was attacked with acid by a spurned suitor when she was 16.

Her face still bears the scars.

Mumtaz went to a safe house in the province of Kanduz in the north. She covers her head with a shawl, which conceals as completely as possible the acid scars.

The tragic story began when she was 14, when the man who would go on to attack her became obsessed with her and began harassing her.

She began to not leave the house unaccompanied and she hid behind the burqa in order to avoid harassment. He was a fighter in a notorious small militia which fought against the Taliban, but also accused of a variety of crimes, extortions and protection rackets. She said he was known for his vicious character.

These preventative steps enraged the man and he continued harassing her.

Two years later he discovered she was engaged to someone else. Humiliated and furious, he burned her face with acid.

Mumtaz has only now come forward about the events of that terrible night when this man, broke into her apartment armed with six of his friends.

"He held me by my hair and poured the acid on my face viciously, like he was saying ‘try to find a groom now'."

Mumtaz tried to run away from him and she started screaming but the acid ate her flesh.

Mumtaz’ saving grace is the fact that before she was attacked she married the man she had been engaged to. She said “I always live in fear of being found.”

Sadly, the real trouble of this girl began when some of her attackers were put behind bars.

They threatened to cut her head off “they told me we are going to kill your entire family when we get out of prison and we will torture you.”

Hasina, a staffer official in the organization Women For Afghan Women who helped Mumtaz with the treatment in India, said “the men in Mumtaz’ family must bear arms and have protection all day long.”

Mumtaz’ father, Sultan, saw his life turned upside-down. Now he is constantly accompanied by fear and tension. Even the thought of going to his field scares him.

“Even if they get out of prison, we will always be a target for them. They won’t let us live in peace,” he said.

For four years, Mumtaz underwent surgeries and painful skin grafts.Today, she lives in hiding in the province of Kanduz.

The suffering of Mumtaz reflects the great agony that exists in Afghanistan.

The media is largely silent on the issue of acid attacks, which usually happen to Afghani women who refuse to wear the veil or refuse the hand in marriage of a suitor.

Mumtaz’ attacker is in hiding. Three of his accomplices received 10 years in prison, something that is rather rare in Afghanistan, where most women can’t use the legal system.

Violence against women, the spread of militias hostile to the Taliban which increases countrywide chaos, and the failure of the central state to provide security are interconnected problems that Afghanistan hasn’t been able to solve yet.

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David Harris

David Harris is the editor in chief of Clarion Project.

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