New York Fashion Week Features Acid Attack Survivor From India

(3BL Media/Justmeans) –  Reshma Bano Qureshi is a 19-year-old woman from Mumbai who survived an acid attack two years ago. Since then, she has teamed up with the organization Make Love Not Scars to create ‘the red lipstick video tutorial,’ which does not teach how to apply makeup, but instead raises awareness about the dangers of acid violence. By disguising her disfigurement as a beauty vlog, Qureshi sent a powerful message that has been widely seen and shared on the Internet. Now, a year later, Qureshi is on to bigger things, and is on the runway for New York Fashion week.

Qureshi’s horrific ordeal happened in May 2014, when she was traveling with her sister in the city of Allahabad in India. She was attacked by her sister’s ex-husband; he and his friends had come to take revenge on Qureshi’s sister, because she’d taken their son after they separated. Her brother-in-law came to throw acid on Quershi’s sister, but Qureshi jumped to her sister’s rescue. The chilling attack left Qureshi temporarily blinded. Passersby refused to assist the girls and ignored their suffering. It took hours for anyone to call the police to get them to hospital.

This was just beginning of Qureshi’s ordeal. Soon after, Qureshi went through nine months of skin graft surgeries, lost her left eye and sank into a deep depression during her recovery. She has said, “The pain was unbearable, the smell was worse, and I had to keep my face covered all the time so no one could see me.” Her face now bears the scars of her attack, but her spirit helped her survive. 

These types of attacks often blind, and/or disfigure the victim. Survivors are also often left with little to no legal recourse, and have a difficult time supporting themselves financially after the attack. There are very limited, specialised burn hospitals in India and these hospitals are always flooded with burn patients. This is why getting admitted to an affordable government hospital is almost impossible for an acid victim. Statistics show a clear increase in the number of acid attacks in this country in recent years. There were 106 such attacks reported in 2012, according to the Acid Survivors Foundation India. That figure rose to 122 in 2013 and 349 in 2014. Activists say that figure climbed to over 500 in 2015. It is important to note that many such attacks also often go unreported.

This is why Qureshi is passionate about telling her story, but she never imagined her journey would lead her to New York Fashion Week, especially as she has never left India before. But she couldn’t miss the opportunity to raise awareness about what happened to her and to so many others each year. Qureshi’s participation at New York Fashion Week 2016, speaks loudly, bringing some strong diversity to September’s runways and is indeed, a brave beauty. 

Photo Credit: Make Love Not Scars