What can we say about Reshma Qureshi, an international anti-acid-sale activist, vlogger, model, and the face of Make Love Not Scars, Reshma tirelessly works towards empowering other acid-attack survivors like herself and has become a beacon of hope for millions. Bookaholicanonymous salutes this young lady and feels extremely privileged and humbled to bring to you her story through her interview. Read as her grit and determination comes through…
On 19 May 2014, as seventeen-year-old Reshma Qureshi left home for the examination centre, wearing her sister’s niqab, everything happened in a flash. The men rushed towards her. Grabbed her. Tugged at her hair. Poured acid on her face. Soon she started to burn like a living corpse. The acid ate through her skin and aimed for her bones, but it could not quell the fire in her heart. It lifted Reshma from tragedy and suffering and propelled her to New York, where she made global headlines by becoming the first acid-attack survivor to walk the ramp at the New York Fashion Week.
Why do you think men throw acid on a woman? Is it to break the silent courage women have? Or does it show their ego?
I have been working on this field for a long, long time and am yet to comprehend why men attack women with acid. The only thing I can say is that I believe it is a result of years of systematic oppression of women that has led to such horrific crimes. Women have been taught that their value lies in how they look and how honourable they are. I believe that men attack women with acid as a sign of power, to 'dishonour' her reputation because they are aware of the fact that an acid attack survivor will forever face questions such as "what did you do to have been attacked with acid" and that her scars will lead her to live a life of victim blaming. It is a sign of power and ego through which men try to indicate that the woman is not honourable or virtuous because she has been attacked with acid. Also, by stripping her of her identity and face she has grown up with, he wishes to permanently damage and scar her to make her his victim for life.
Tell us where did you get the courage to continue with life...and to become a beacon of hope for other acid-attack survivors?
I got the courage from within. I refuse to allow my attacker to win. He might have thought he would ruin my life, but I am still in charge of my life, and I know that the biggest revenge I could have against my attacker is to emerge victorious. I did nothing to deserve this. No one deserves to be attacked with acid and I aim to be a beacon of hope for other survivors because I never want a single survivor to feel as though she should be ashamed of the world. The world should be ashamed of itself, we've done nothing wrong.
What do you think are the hurdles that acid-attack survivors face?
I think that survivors face many hurdles. From bad medical care and long, arduous legal processes, we also face immense financial struggles since the road to recovery is long and expensive. We also face victim blaming and are often made to believe that our scars are too gruesome to witness, thereby leading us to cover our faces in public. This discrimination limits our opportunities in the workplace since many employers do not wish to hire us in customer facing or team roles.
What can we as a society do for acid-attack survivors?
Accept us. Accept us and love us. Help us recover and heal and embrace our scars.
You have done so much to raise awareness about acid-attack? What other steps do you still want to take?
I wish to see my book, Being Reshma, on TV. I believe that people now consume content through films and video streaming apps and I wish to continue on my journey to raise awareness about acid attacks
What is that one thought that you live with each day!
Today is the beginning of a new adventure.
Thank you Reshma Qureshi and Tania Singh for agreeing to do this interview with us!
Bookaholicanonymous urges you to grab a copy of this book as it is inspiring and life-affirming. It is an extraordinary story of a young girl from the slums of Mumbai who overcame insurmountable odds in a world ruled by men and dared to change it. Go get it!
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