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!"
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.
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