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Running-up 2007

Abir Abdullah

Acid Survivors in Bangladesh


Acid violence is a particularly vicious and damaging form of violence in Bangladesh, where acid is thrown into people’s faces. When acid attacks the eyes, it causes permanent damage, and many acid attacks survivors have lost the use of one or both eyes. The overwhelming majority of the victims are women, and many of them are under 18 years of age. The victims are attacked for many reasons. In some cases, it is because a young girl or woman has spurned the sexual advances of a male or in others, either she or her parents have rejected a proposal of marriage.

Recently, there have been acid attacks on children, older women, and even men. These attacks are often the result of family and land disputes, disagreements about dowry demands, or simply because of a desire for revenge. According to statistics, in the period from May 1999 to September 2007, 2,568 people have been attacked, 90% percent of whom are women.

But the scars left by acid do not only leave deep marks on the person’s body. In addition to the inevitable psychological trauma, some survivors also face both social isolation and ostracism that further damage their self-esteem and seriously undermine their professional and personal futures.

Women who have survived acid attacks have great difficulty in finding work and, if unmarried (as many victims tend to be), have very little chance of ever getting married. Furthermore, medical treatment for the survivors is expensive. Many are not able to afford long-term modern treatment facilities. Many cannot get necessary legal support, especially from the administration, and not even from their own family. In a country like Bangladesh, this has serious social and economic consequences.

All the photos were taken during the Convention for Acid Survivors in the capital Dhaka, on 5 November 2007.


Abir Abdullah (Bagerhat, Bangladesh, 1971) started his photography career in 1996 at Drik Picture Library, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Currently working in the European Press photo Agency as a Bangladesh correspondent. Photographs published in Blink, Time, Newsweek, Der Speigel, New Internationalist, Guardian, International Herald Tribune, Asiaweek, El Mundo, Stern, Geo, etc. He won the Mother Jones award for the documentary project War Veterans of Bangladesh in 2001.