Dancing girl Fakhra Younus, who was left severely disfigured after her husband threw acid into her face, committed suicide 12 years after the attack.
But despite her ongoing struggle with the attack that left her blinded in one eye, severely disfigured and almost unable to breathe, her surgeon said that only ten days before her death she was “feister than ever."
Valerio Cervelli told The Huffington Post UK
“She knew it could only get better, and even though I operated on her almost 40 times, she was always ready for more.”
Describing her as a "war horse" he added:
“I didn’t expect her to commit suicide. I never thought she would. The truth is, I did all I could, but she never reconciled with life.”
The acid attack had burned the hair off Fakhra's head, fused her lips, blinded one eye, obliterated her left ear and melted her breasts.
Her then-husband Bilal Khar continues to deny culpability for the attack, and as he has been previously absolved, he cannot be charged again.
Fakhra awoke from her nap 12 years ago to find her husband pushing back her head and pouring liquid on her face.
Wiping her eyes, she saw her husband Bilal Khar run from the room. She started to follow but looking down she saw her clothes dissolve into her skin. Naked and burning all over, she collapsed.
Khar, the son of a former Pakistan governor, was acquitted, but many believe he used his connections to avoid justice, AP states
At the time of the attack, Fakhra spent three months in hospital, before reconciling with her husband Bilal Khar. However her husband treated her like a slave, hiding her disfigured face with a pillow during sexual intercourse.
SNUBBED BY PAKISTANI AUTHORITIES
After six months, Fakhra decided to quit her unhappy marriage, looking to leave Pakistan to get the operations she urgently needed.
However she faced a struggle to obtain the national ID required to be eligible for a passport, with official fears that publicising Fakhra's case abroad would "sully Pakistan's reputation."
However a former wife of Khar’s father, Tehmina Durrani, campaigned on behalf on Fakhra, helping her gain a passport to travel to Italy.
Durrani also wrote movingly about the "open disgust and contempt by everyone who set eyes on her in Pakistan" and gave heartfelt thanks to the Italian government for providing Younus with care.
TRYING TO CARRY ON WITH LIFE
However Fakhra tried to keep her head up and carry on with her life. Especially for her son Nauman, three when she arrived in Italy.
A close friend told The Huffington Post UK: “Fakhra never ceased to be feminine, she always took care of her appearance. She would very often go to the hairdresser, she would wear make up. All these things were important to her.”
In Italy, Ersilia Littrico, who met Fakrah through Tehmina, made the arrangements for Fakhra to receive the treatment she needed. She is the one who will adopt her son Nauman, now 15.
Ersilia took care of Nauman when Fakhra was recovering from her many operations. The relationship between the two was not an easy one, Ersilia remembers.
The repeated anaesthesia and monstrous amounts of psychotropic drugs to alleviate the physical pain created a strong dependency, which Fakhra struggled with.
“Nauman had to act as a son, but also as a father and a husband," Littrico recalls.
However upon her arrival in Italy, the media showed interest and support in Fakhra's story. She was invited to talk shows and was offered to write a book “Il Volto Cancellato”, An Erased Face.
But slowly her story was replaced by other ones. Fakhra's was not invited to participate in last year’s award-winning documentary “Saving Face”.
After more than three dozen operations, and over more than a decade struggling to repair her severely damaged face and body, Fakhra committed suicide.
Ersilia told The Huffington Post UK that Nauman knew his mother would give up one day. Her son knew her depression too well. He knew she wanted to go back to Pakistan but didn't feel she could and this made her very distressed.
Nauman doesn’t say very much. He never wants to hear anything from Pakistan again.
FAKHRA'S EARLY STRUGGLES
At 13 years old, Fakhra was sold by her mother to an older man with whom she had Nauman. Fakhra never met her own father, and her mother, addicted to heroin, prostituted herself in the streets of Karachi.
Fakhra's brother battled many years against drug addiction before eventually being killed by his dependency.
However Fakhra spoke very fondly of the father of her child. The two never got married, but Nauman's father taught her how to read and write, use cutlery and speak properly. He also introduced her to the possibilities of being a dancing girl.
He helped Fakhra leave the extreme poverty of the streets of Karachi. Fakhra found herself in Dubai, performing for the Sheiks of the Emirates in the most sumptuous palaces. In return, she received outrageous sums of money, jewellery and a lavish lifestyle she never thought even existed.
When she met Bilal Khar, Fakhra thought her life could change again. But she soon realised her marriage wasn’t going to be the fairytale Bilal promised her. Constantly subjected to violence and humiliation and not allowed to live with her own son, Fakhra decided she to be be a dancer again. However this was cut short by the attack that was to end her life as she knew it.
After her suicide, Tehmina Durrani was to make sure Fakrah’s body was welcomed in Pakistan. Both the Italian consul and Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi waited for her coffin to arrive at Karachi’s airport for more than four hours.
Upon arrival, it was covered by an Italian flag and a Pakistani one. The streets cried and protested for Fakhra and her coffin was brought to her burial place, next to her mother.
Fakhra’s campaign has to be thought of for the future. The future of Pakistan, and for the crimes that cease to remain unpunished.
On Tuesday 27 March, Pakistani Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution seeking “comprehensive and dedicated laws” against anyone found guilty of throwing acid on human beings.