Pakistani Woman Gets New Nose After 32 Years, Still Lives With The Man Who Cut Off Her Old One

Illustration for article titled Pakistani Woman Gets New Nose After 32 Years, Still Lives With The Man Who Cut Off Her Old One

In Pakistan, the nose is considered a symbol of family honor, which is why women's faces are often the a target of assault when they're perceived to have "shamed" the family in some way. As of 2011, 943 women were murdered, 9 had their noses cut off, 98 were tortured, 47 set on fire and 38 attacked with acid.

19-year-old Allah Rakhi had been married at 13 and suffered her husband's abuse for six years. She was about to leave him when he sliced off her nose with a knife, shouting "You're no longer beautiful!" As she lay bleeding in the street outside, he yelled after her: "A woman is only a woman inside the home. Outside she's a whore." Her husband served a meager 10 months in jail and was released on the basis of paying her hospital bills (he didn't). Meanwhile, a mutilated Rakhi supported herself and her daughter with various craft works while hiding her face under a veil, a poor candidate for reconstructive surgery due to finances and the complications of Rakhi's hepatitis C. ("I died every moment," she said, but added that she never stopped hoping.)

Finally, 32 years after the attack, an Acid Survivor's Foundation in Islamabad, where her daughter was working, put Rakhi in touch with a surgeon who took her case pro bono. She said, heartbreakingly, "Thank God I did not commit suicide. Life is a blessing!"

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However, the story ends on a sour note; although her husband divorced her shortly after he was released from prison, Rakhi—now 51 years old—is currently living under the same roof as him after her son persuaded her to return home. In the piece, Rakhi takes ownership of this domestic situation (and forgiveness?) as a "victory." It's the second time I'm bringing this up today, but it sort of echoes the Pugach/Riss acid throwing attack of the late 1950s, which saw Linda Riss marry Burt Pugach, the man who half-blinded and scarred her, after he was released from prison. They've been married for 37 years. Haunting.

'32 years after attack, Pakistani woman gets nose' [HuffPo]

Image via ansar80/Shutterstock.

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DISCUSSION

dcwonderwoman
honey badger don't care

I would like to blame this on the rise of Wahhabism and Saudi missionary work in Pakistan over the past couple of decades, but this happened 32 years ago... there is simply no excuse. I'm very grateful I had a Pakistani dad that was extremely female positive. We had our issues and battles, but they never revolved around religion nor gender lines. He always believed that empowered women led to peaceful and more productive societies. He believed that women should be imams and lead prayer, and needed more powerful roles in religion (and society in general).

I haven't been to Pakistan since I was a kid, but my relatives tell me it's a very different place - that it's a total mess. And these are relatives that wear niqab in the United States, and males that have very long beards - they won't even shake my hand as a first cousin. They're very conservative and traditional, but they're not violent.

Most Pakistanis hold nowhere close to this level of extremism - though even one case of abuse is simply unacceptable. But I do also wonder about these kinds of articles that paint the "other" as barbaric. Statistically, more women are murdered in the US by an intimate partner, than in Pakistan (though Pakistan does have a slightly higher average, if scaled down to population ratios). Not a single case is ever excusable. And let me be clear - Pakistan is fucked up, and it's getting even more fucked up, thanks to our friends the Saudis and an increasingly corrupt justice system. To think they democratically elected the first female prime minister in a Muslim country, just 2 decades ago. That seems like an impossibility now.