Standing in the face of oppression has always been difficult for the oppressed and taking a stand as a victim is difficult itself, standing for yourself when there no one beside you makes it nearly impossible. A society where females are always considered to be at fault no matter what they go through and what they face in their lifetime. A strong girl was born a victim of sexual harassment and later faced acid attack by a brotherly figure, her brother-in-law.
Suman Ali, who belongs to Lahore and is currently completing her graduation from the University of Punjab, was a victim of child abuse, sexual harassment and cyber harassment. She was 8 when her elder sister got married.
Suman looked at her brother-in-law, Zafar, as her own brother. Little did she knew that he was, in fact, a wolf in sheep’s skin. He had bad intentions for her since he got married to her sister. He not only talked dirty to the child but also molested her several times. She was unaware of her brother in law’s intentions towards her, came to know what was going on when she reached 10th grade. By then, the man had attempted many times to molest her and touch her in an indecent way. Soon after she realized that she had been a victim of his lust, she started staying away from him. Initially, she stayed quiet on all of his acts but since the events kept on increasing it was time for her to bring her family in confidence and tell them everything. Unfortunately, like most desi families her mother and sister were also of the opinion that there is no such thing and that he loves her like a brother.
When there was no one standing with her to confront Zafar, she started confronting him herself. To keep herself safe from his evil, she also appeared in her intermediate exam privately so that she didn’t have to leave her home and he won’t be able to access her. After clearing her inter exams she took admission in a University for further education. That’s when her Brother in law got a clear chance to chase her, harass her and tease her without being afraid of anyone. He turned into a creep in his obsession for her and started following her everywhere and kept an eye on her every activity. He did so by hiring a man who used to follow her everywhere.
He was interested to marry his sister in law and was ready to go to any extreme to get her. He used to stay outside her home from late night till early in the morning, calling her name and telling her to show him her face for once and he would leave. This made Suman’s situation and her character questionable.
There was no check on him and no one to confront him on what he was doing to her. In all the events that went unnoticed and unchecked by Suman’s family, indeed encouraged him to harass and tease her more each day. He also attained her cell phone number and began calling her from multiple numbers. He defamed her in front of her brothers and family. She was not only facing his harassment alone but also faced mistrust and doubts from her own family. All of this made Suman depressed enough to give up on her life.
Suman was 15 when, Zafar, 40 at that time, told her that he loves her and wants to marry her. This happened while he was still married to Suman’s elder sister. He even threatened to kill his own kids and divorce his wife if she didn’t marry him. He was so obsessed with her that he started taking her name in his sleep and when he was sick.
Despite all the depression and difficulties that she was facing, she continued her education. One day while she was traveling to reach her University. Zafar was following her and was present at the bus stop. He threatened her to come with him or he will create a scene on the road. He took her to a deserted area near a graveyard and shrine. She kept asking him to take her from there but he said he only needs 2 minutes to talk to her.
Zafar was an asthma patient and always kept a bag of medicines with him. On this day, the bag of medicines was still with him but there was something else in those medicine bottles. He pressurized her to marry him and when she clearly refused, he decided to destroy her life. He took out a liquid from a bottle and within a second he rubbed a liquid on her face and told her it’s acid. As soon as the acid made contact her face it started burning her skin and Suman started shouting uncontrollably.
The pain was so immense that she started screaming uncontrollably. When she managed to lose his grip, he shouted from behind ‘this is only the demo I will put more on you’. She entered the nearby Madrasa and put a lot of water on her face to wash away the burning sensation of acid. She was continuously shouting because of the pain and burning. Meanwhile, Zafar entered the madrassa, dragged her, beat her and took her out of there. She was almost unconscious when he took her to his home. Suman’s sister opened the door. Zafar told her, “mene isko samjha dia hai. shayad isko samaj aa jae”. Despite all of the situation, Suman’s sister was still supporting her husband and stood against her sister. She applied toothpaste on Suman’s burnt face and made her promise not to tell anyone about the incident. After Suman promised them that she will not tell anything to anyone, they took her to a private clinic who immediately referred her to emergency.
When discharged from the hospital after three days Suman was taken to her sister’s house where more or less she was a captive. As a result, she was unable to file a complaint instantly. Suman’s sister told her mother that she wanted to marry Zafar and when he refused she threw acid on her face. Her mother agreed to the statement and told her that they already had doubts about her. She was already facing a lot of pain and when she saw this coming from her mother she wanted to kill herself. Her sister was trying to take Suman to Karachi but her brothers insisted to bring her back home. Even after coming home she was kept in a locked room and her elder sister did not allow anyone to see her.
Suman was forced by her sister and brother-in-law to tell a false story about the incident if anyone asks. Since she was afraid of them at that time, she did not tell anyone what actually happened. After some days she finally gathered the courage to tell her brothers about the truth. Her family stood with her and decided to file a case against him. At the police station, the case was heard by SSP, DSP, and other officials. Suman and her family spent nearly 12 hours at the police station to get the case registered. Her MLC and medical reports were gathered on the same day and upon the recognition and information of Suman’s sister’s various raids were made to arrest the culprit but none of them were successful.
Her sister tried to convince the family to forgive her husband. However, none of them was willing to do so. The case against him continued for more than a year. Zafar was not only involved in the acid attack but was also a criminal of Cyber-attacks. He photoshopped various pictures of Suman and blackmailed her to drop the case or he will post them online. Suman, a brave acid attack survivor was able to stand against these threats and never back down to them.
She was so determined to win the case that for court hearings she was missing many of her medical appointments and as a result, the recovery was getting constantly delayed. She attended all hearings except the final one and that too because she didn’t know it was decision day, not regular hearing. On the decision date she went in for surgery and when she came out of anesthesia, she got the good news that Zafar was sentenced to imprisonment of 28 years.
Starting from child abuse, sexual harassment, cyber-attacks and then acid attack, She had suffered a lot because of this man, who himself is a father of two daughters. The man who told her that he will make her life a living hell and she won’t be able to go out of a single room is himself confined to a single room of Jail.
In Pakistan, there is not only one Suman but there are many who are unknown and living silently, bearing the oppression of people who wronged them. It is time for them to stand against their culprits, raise their voice and get the justice that they deserve. There is nothing praiseworthy in being victimized and it is obligated upon us by our religion to stand for yourself and speak against the oppression, only then it will be possible for us to overcome our persecutors. We praise Suman for her bravery and determination and we wish her the best of luck in her future. May Allah keep us all safe from such barbarians.
Muhammad Usman Awan is a Blogger and Social Entrepreneur who founded first Anti Harassment Awareness Campaign “Stop Harassment Now”. The Purpose of this campaign is to empower and educate our Girls and Working Women against Harassment.