Fakhra Younus, 33, of Pakistan, committed suicide last week after 12 years of living with the scars from a horrific acid attack. Her death has caused an international outpouring of grief and renewed calls for justice against her assailant, Bilal Khar.
Khar entered Younus' mother's home and poured acid over her face while she was asleep, according to reports. The acid burned away her nose and left Younus permanently disfigured; she underwent 39 surgeries to repair the damage done. In addition to having her nose melted away, Younus' lips were melted together, and she was left blind in one eye.
Younus' 5-year-old son was present during the attack and told his grandmother "that is not my mother" after seeing her for the first time in the hospital, the Daily Mail reports. Soon after the attack, Younus moved to Rome for further treatment and rehabilitation. She committed suicide while in Rome by jumping six stories to her death.
Women in both Italy and Pakistan have led protests to bring awareness of the plight of Pakistan women who often face such atrocities. According to The Aurat Foundation, over 8,500 acid attacks, forced marriages and forms of violence were reported in Pakistan in 2011, though the Foundation suspects that the number could be much larger due to unreported violence.
Several women have come forward to offer their support for Younus and address the issues Pakistan women face. One person particularly close to Younus spoke about the suffering she endured.
"So many times we thought she would die in the night because her nose was melted and she couldn't breathe," said Tehmina Duranni, Ghar's stepmother, who became an advocate for Younus after the attack.
"We used to put a straw in the little bit of her mouth that was left because the rest was all melted together. Her life was a parched stretch of hard rock on which nothing bloomed," she wrote in an article for The News.
Bilal Khar was arrested for the attack and charged with attempted murder but was released after only serving five months in jail. CBS reported that Khar maintained his innocence in the years following the attack and gave a TV interview immediately following her suicide.
"You people should be a little considerate," he stated. "I have three daughters, and when they go to school people tease them," he said on TV. Khar has suggested that a man with the same name actually carried out the attack and said that Younus killed herself because of a lack of money.
Yousun's death has triggered a powerful, worldwide reaction among women, activists, and those who are familiar with her situation.
"I think this whole country should be extremely embarrassed that a foreign country took responsibility for a Pakistani citizen for 13 years because we could give her nothing, not justice, not security," Durrani told the Daily Mail.