The young victims behind painful acid violence attacks in Bangladesh

Romantic rejection, gang rivalry, dowry solicitation, misogyny, prejudice – these are some of the horrendous reasons behind a painful form of violence many women around the world face: acid attacks. Acid violence is global, but a significant number of attacks are concentrated in South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh. According to Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF) of Bangladesh, there have been 3,000 reported incidents in the country since 1999. Over 80 percent of the victims are women. However, most attacks go unreported.

Five years ago, photojournalist Khaled Hasan became interested in conveying the stories of the Bangladeshi women and girls who have been violently assaulted with nitric and sulfuric acids used in jewelry and dyeing, to disfigure them physically and emotionally. He traveled to various parts of Bangladesh where acid violence is the highest, got to know over 150 victims and captured their painful stories through his lens.

But as a male photographer, he found it hard to gain access to the lives of female victims. “The main problem is access, and if the woman is victimized, then her family and husband do not want to be interviewed or photographed,” explained Hasan. But Hasan remained persistent and gained the trust of victims and their families over time.

In 2012, Hassan submitted these photos to the 2012 Kaunas Photo STAR competition and won. The work on acid victims was compiled in his book, “Leave Me Alone” (December 2014).

The photos in the book offer a glimpse into the lives of the acid victims and their painful survival stories. During this project, Hasan encountered many victims who eventually went on to work for non-governmental organizations that support other victims.

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