On March 17th, 33 year old Fakhra Younus, Pakistani victim of an acid attack (allegedly) perpetuated by her then-husband, committed suicide.
Her suicide brings attention to the horrific human rights violations of the patriarchical, male-dominated Islamic country of Pakistan.
After undergoing 30+ operations to repair her body, probably countless hours of physical therapy, and living estranged from her home country, Younus jumped from a building 12 years after the acid attack.
Younus’ story highlights the horrible 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 likely an undercount.
Her husband was acquitted of the attacks, but his story is more than fishy. He has been accused of using his wealth and power to skirt the law:
Bilal Khar once again denied carrying out the acid attack in a TV interview following her suicide, suggesting a different man with the same name committed the crime. He claimed Younus killed herself because she didn’t have enough money, not because of her horrific injuries, and criticized the media for hounding him about the issue.
Younus lived in Italy, where the Italian government provided for her medical and daily living needs. Only a rich man in a country which subordinates women, a man who literally can get away with murder due to the amount of money and power he has would suggest that a victim of an acid attack killed herself due to being poor. What a way to dismiss Younus’s life.
Here is what Younus wrote of her suicide:
In her last message before committing suicide, Fakhra had written that she was committing suicide over the silence of law on the atrocities and insensitivity of Pakistani rulers.
Pakistan only recently criminalized acid attacks. By ‘recently”, I mean December 23rd, 2011 – just over three months ago . I suppose this is not surprising, coming from a country with both an abysmal track record for human rights and the strictest laws and harshest criminalization for blasphemy. In Pakistan, 96% of the population are Muslim, and it’s the third most dangerous country for a woman to live in. The Hudood ordinance, which allowed women to be stoned to death for adultery if they were raped, was only amended in 2006, despite opposition from Islamic groups.
In a country where 82% of survey respondents favor stoning to death as punishment for adultery, it’s no wonder what most victims of acid attacks are women, most victimizers are husbands, and most husbands attack their wives for “dishonoring them“. Younus herself was sold by her mother to a man when she was 13.
Clearly, Islam is not having a very positive impact on humans rights in Pakistan.
The suicide of Younus is a double tragedy – and the religion of her country played a primary role in both her original injuries and her suicide.
The government/justice system of Pakistan could have given Younus justice. They didn’t. I doubt they will. That is a third tragedy.
Islam is a poison to human rights. Only when secular ethics creep in and successfully convince people that equality and freedom are words that have real meaning will we see human rights flourish.