Terrorism that’s personal

Hans-Georg's picture
Mon, 2008-12-01 16:12 by Hans-Georg
Acid attacks and wife burnings are common in parts of Asia because the victims are the most voiceless in these societies. Naeema Azar, above, was attacked by her husband after they divorced. Her 12-year-old son, Ahmed Shah, looks after her. Naeema Azar as she normally presents herself, to avoid shocking people

By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Published: November 30, 2008 in The New York Times
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

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Terrorism in this part of the world usually means bombs exploding or hotels burning, as the latest horrific scenes from Mumbai attest. Yet alongside the brutal public terrorism that fills the television screens, there is an equally cruel form of terrorism that gets almost no attention and thrives as a result: flinging acid on a woman’s face to leave her hideously deformed.

Here in Pakistan, I’ve been investigating such acid attacks, which are commonly used to terrorize and subjugate women and girls in a swath of Asia from Afghanistan through Cambodia (men are almost never attacked with acid). Because women usually don’t matter in this part of the world, their attackers are rarely prosecuted and acid sales are usually not controlled. It’s a kind of terrorism that becomes accepted as part of the background noise in the region.

This month in Afghanistan, men on motorcycles threw acid on a group of girls who dared to attend school. One of the girls, a 17-year-old named Shamsia, told reporters from her hospital bed: “I will go to my school even if they kill me. My message for the enemies is that if they do this 100 times, I am still going to continue my studies.”

When I met Naeema Azar, a Pakistani woman who had once been an attractive, self-confident real estate agent, she was wearing a black cloak that enveloped her head and face. Then she removed the covering, and I flinched.

Acid had burned away her …

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Sharia-Bestrafung für eine solche Tat im Iran