THE BLOG

Mercy Mission: Hair Transplant Surgeon Asim Shahmalak Is Travelling to Pakistan to Help Acid Attack Victims

21/01/2014 13:13 GMT | Updated 22/03/2014 09:59 GMT

'Ladies, can you imagine turning down a man's advances only to have lethal acid thrown in your face leaving you scarred for life? Unthinkable isn't it. It happens to be a terrifyingly reality for many women in Pakistan and sadly my home city of Karachi is a hotspot for these horrific attacks.

I was born and raised in Karachi and trained as a doctor there before coming to Britain. So when I was asked by Karachi-based charity Smile Again to visit the area and meet acid attack victims last year, I immediately accepted their invite.

Even with years of experience working as an NHS surgeon and running my own private clinic in Manchester - I knew it would be a difficult trip and it was truly heart-breaking to see many of the women were beyond any help. Their lives have been wrecked.

It is difficult to describe in words what these people have been put through. I could not sleep because I was so upset by what I saw.

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One of the acid attack victims was a beautician who is 24, and was attacked when she was just 13 for spurning a man's advances when she was on her way to work on a bus. The man had asked her to marry him. When she said no, he grabbed my hair and threw acid in her face. She could barely describe how painful it was, but her scars said it all.

A fellow 23-year-old victim was also attacked when she spurned a man's advances. And a 19-year-old girl was horrifically scarred by accident when playing with some other girls. Another 24-year-old beauty salon worker had acid thrown over her by a man who had been stalking her after she turned down his proposal. The list goes on.

Young women like this, who had bright futures ahead and busy lives, have been shunned by society because of their disfigurements.

They cannot get jobs and, in some cases, they have been disowned by their families and left to beg on the streets. They are too frightened of reprisals to tell the police who has attacked them and even if they did, they have no faith that the culprits will be brought to justice. All this torment and distress and for doing nothing more than spurning a man's advances.

Many victims need hair, eyebrow and eyelash transplants after acid had melted their features. I felt the pull to help them was so strong I decided to invest £50,000 of my own money to rebuild the lives of six women and one man - including the four women I have mentioned here - who were disfigured.

I'm one of only nine surgeons in the world qualified to do the kind of intricate eyelash and eyebrow transplants the women need. So I'm taking a team from Crown Clinic the hair transplant clinic I run near Manchester Airport back to Karachi next week to begin my mercy mission. I will be spending three days there operating on these women. I will be with my team but we will be training local medics so that there is a continuity of care when we are gone.