Imagine if you were a little girl in Bangladesh, who rejected a young man that pursued you. He harrassed you many times, but every time you rejected him, his anger grew until it became pride. His pride led him to throw acid on your face. You have survived, but your life has changed for the worse. What would you do if you were that little girl? Where would you turn?
The Acid Survivors Foundation was created in 1999 and is located in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan, Uganda, Nepal and India. In Bangladesh alone, the highest number of attacks occured in 2002 claiming 496 recorded attacks.
Feeling scared and alone, if you were a victim, you would need support. ASF Bangladesh, for example, provides this support through burn care, plastic surgery, legal and financial services, and psychological and physical rehabilitation.
I had an interview with Salam Jones, who is currently raising funds for ASF Bangladesh Charity. Through his lens, he hopes to capture and share the hearts of victims of acid violence.
R.Tell us about yourself.
S.Well by profession, I´m actually a carpenter. However, I started writing (for my sins) ranging from poetry, to short articles on current affairs, as well as the occasional fictional pieces and eventually built up a following. I decided to put this ‘new found fame’ and following to some sort of charitable use, as human rights are very key to my being. As a writer, the right to express myself freely is a fundamental one, and something I’m willing to fight for. I guess you could describe me as a ‘charitarian’, that is that I try and use my abilities and skills combined to raise awareness and funds for different charitable causes
R.Why are you passionate about supporting ASF?
S.Whilst being aware of acid violence, my eyes were truly opened to the extent of this cruel and inhumane crime after watching excerpts of a CH4 documentary about a recent victim in Dhaka. There were three things which stuck with me, that I couldn’t shake off. Firstly, how is it possible for one human being to do that to another? Secondly, in a country with a population of over 160 million, how is it that we have only ONE facility that helps the victims of this disgusting crime. Thirdly, why does it take a western journalist, a western film crew and a western broadcaster to highlight something that is in essence a Bengali problem? Why are our own reluctant to acknowledge a problem when its raised by a Bengali, yet are completely up in arms when its addressed by a Western/non-Bengali person? I decided that instead of complaining about it, I would get actively involved.
R.Why do you feel there is a lack of interest from the British Bengali community in ASF? What could the reasons be?
S.I used to think that it was due to a lack of sympathy, as in they just didn’t care (for various reasons). However I am slowly starting to understand that its more to do with empathy, but in layman terms, it´s because they can´t relate or fathom the extent of the damage caused by acid attacks. Also they can´t understand exactly WHY its very much a gender based crime (even though statistically 1 in 7 victims are men).
R.Why do you feel it is important for the people to support or donate ASF?
S.The ASF does great work. After visiting them, I can see that they not only treat the victims of acid attacks, both medically and with the much needed emotional and social therapy, but also are key advocates in the campaign to raise awareness of acid related crime in Bangladesh. There is also a lobbying of government in a bid to introduce legislation to prevent such attacks continuing within mainstream Bangladeshi society. Sadly, they are not government-funded and rely very much on the generosity of their donors to continue the much needed work they do.
R.What is your mission? Why are you there in Bangladesh? What are your goals?
S.My mission was to come to Bangladesh, blog my journey, raise as much awareness of acid violence as possible amongst the British Bengali community and try to raise funds which will be used specifically towards therapy and aftercare. A part of this awareness campaign involves interviewing and filming the staff and patients at the ASF and then producing a short film to be shared on social media.
R.How can people donate or support ASF?
S.Sadly, even though ASF is registered with the Bangladeshi NGO bureau, which means that they can receive international aid, it´s simply not possible for individuals to make private donations. It has to go through an approved and recognized body. this is simply to protect the ASF from exploitation.
Hope n Mic is an organization set up about four years ago by Sulthana Begum and myself along with other poet/writer friends. It’s a way for us to meet on a monthly basis and share our work with each other and combine that with our love for charity work. The stage is open to the public once a month, usually on the last Friday and the door money goes to a different cause each month.
Hope n Mic is working with Dilara Khan who already has an established relationship with ASF. We are donating the total amount from this particular appeal to the same pot, designated for the therapy and aftercare.
The appeal ends on the 2nd of April, and so far, we have raised nearly £2500. The two ways that the public can donate is to send the money directly to me (I guarantee 100% donations policy and complete transparency for anyone that would like to check where the money is going. The second way is to attend Hope n Mic night on the 1st of April and make a donation there. Both these methods will be delivered to the ASF upon my return to London. The account details that I´m using for this appeal and future appeals for other charities are as follows:
Barclays Bank 20-57-06 Account number 63638839 Name A. Salam
PLEASE state Acid as a reference so we know where the money is destined for.
I cover my own costs and gaurantee a 100% donations policy.
R.This sounds great! I will attend Hope and Mic on Friday night, 1st of April, as well as perform! Hope to see you there!