Pakistan: acid attack victims find beauty – in themselves

**Update: May 6, 2010**
Dear readers,
It has been brought to my attention that the Depilex Smileagain Foundation and its founder, Massarat Misbah, are being investigated for misuse of funds and other charges.
I have been in communication with activists on the ground in Pakistan for many months and am very alarmed by the information I’ve received. Please see a statement from the Italian sponsors of Depilex here.
In any event, and whatever the ultimate verdict is in this case, the stories of acid attack survivors, and the dangers against women and men in Pakistan are very real. I have left the below posting up because women like Irum Saeed and Urooj Akbar must be heard and must be helped.
To learn more about how to help survivors of acid violence, please see this post – where I introduce you to an organization I’ve worked with personally. I encourage you to support their efforts.
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MSNBC)
Irum Saeed, survivor of an acid attack (photo: MSNBC)

My post on acid attacks in Pakistan was viewed 4,000 times in less than 24 hours. No post of mine has ever gotten that much traffic so quickly. The post quickly skyrocketed to seven thousand and counting. While reactions have been mixed, many of you are taking action. Thank you.

Emails have continued to come in, asking about the welfare of Pakistan’s women. While so many accounts are bleak, I was referred to a story last night that I need to share with you.

Meet Saira Liaqat and Urooj Akbar, who work at a Lahore beauty salon founded by Massarat Misbah. They are acid attack survivors who have found new promise after experiencing the unthinkable.

Massarat Misbah is not an acid attack survivor herself. However, five years ago, she encountered a woman whose face had been maimed in an attack by her husband. The woman needed assistance, and Misbah came to her aide. She also placed an ad in a local newspaper looking for other women who needed help. Misbah learned that several of the women who had been maimed had wanted to work in beauty salons like her own.

Since then, Misbah has founded the Depilex Smileagain Foundation, which employs acid attack survivors to work in beauty salons. She has arranged for ten women take beauty courses in Italy last year. The Foundation also raises money to help women find refuge and obtain medical care.

“I’m independent now, I stand on my own two feet,” she says. “I have a job, I work, I earn. In fact, I’m living on my own … which isn’t an easy thing for a woman to do in Pakistan, for a lone woman to survive.”

– Urooj Akbar

Regular clients of these women are inspired by their resilience, and they also say that they’re more aware of the trials faced by women in their society.

Read the rest of their story here, and learn more about the Depilex Smileagain Foundation here.

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PS: I know I owe you some Jumu’ah Dispatches! I’ll get on it as soon as I can. I also received a comment from a reader asking me some really interesting questions about human rights, liberalism, and more. Rather than answer it buried in a comments section of another post, I’ll dedicate an entry to my answer when I’ve got more time on my hands.

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Achieving women: Al-Gassra and Maddow

Stu Forster / Getty Images Asia Pacific)
SO cool. (photo: Stu Forster / Getty Images Asia Pacific)

Remember my blog about Rachel Maddow? I called her a “great mind to watch out for”. Well, she’s getting her own show on MSNBC! Here are her comments on the achievement. This is excellent news – congratulations, Dr. Maddow!

From HijabTrendz: an update on Bahraini Olympian Roqaya Al-Gassra, who is literally storming the scene for Muslim women athletes.

You go, girls.

(Next year: maybe we’ll find a tough-as-nails Muslimah regular on MSNBC … one can dream, right?)

This Muslim knows how to have fun & great minds to watch out for

We all have our vices, whether we like to ‘fess up to them or not. Mine are slightly embarassing. But I’m willing to own up to them:

* Independent bookstores: the one in my neighborhood has the most incredible Middle Eastern politics, current affairs and history sections I’ve ever experienced. It’s tiny, but hard-to-find and rarely-encountered volumes abound. I’m like a kid in a candy store.

* Caffeine: I don’t drink alcohol (no, not at all). Nor do I smoke. But I drink a good four shots of espresso a day. Six if my hours are especially long. Yes, my doctor and I talk about this. She’s not thrilled with me. At least it’s fair trade and organic, right?! (If you’re ever in San Diego, you must check out my favorite coffee shop in North America).

 * Miscellaneous: book-collecting, za’atar, the feeling I get after a great workout, the smell of jasmine, orchids, and clean floors (swoon).

But the worst of my vices? The one that makes my friends think me truly bizarre?

CNN / MSNBC / the whole political-commentary universe that is auto-programmed on my cheap analog set.

I can’t get enough. I even get glued to the commentators who make my skin crawl. After all, what’s more invigorating than countering their slimy, often empty points with scholary and sassy remarks?

Love, you say? Fortune? No way. I’ll take my nerd-time over both any day. Politics never bore. I can’t say the same for romance. Sorry – do I sound bitter? Must be all of that espresso.

Last night, when my internet cut out for several hours, I spent my Friday night (this is the “this Muslim knows how to have fun” part) simultaneously cursing at and commending MSNBC.

In a feisty conversation about Obama’s presence on the world stage and McCain’s – uh – blathering at a restaurant (‘scuse me, he was blathering at “Schmidt’s Sausage Haus” – closest he could get to Berlin I guess), I ruminated on some recent commentary by one of my favorite pundits, well, ever. I’m talking about the hyperintelligent, quick-as-a-whip Rachel Maddow.

My Friday night TV-watching buddy didn’t know of Ms. Maddow – nor do a lot of people I come into contact with. Sad, considering that most people can recognize at least a name or two off the roster of ornery old dudes she outshines on MSNBC.

I won’t belabor you with biographical data – that’s what Google’s for. I will say that I personally think she should have her own show — perhaps she could replace the one show on CNN I simply cannot stomach.

Below, one of my favorite debates: Rachel Maddow vs. Pat Buchanan on healthcare. It’s just too delish.