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Pakistan Acid Women Fear Backlash Over Oscar Winning Film

Kvivors of acid attacks whose plight became the focus of an Oscar-winning documentary now fear ostracism and reprisals if the film is broadcast in Pakistan.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy made history earlier this year when she won Pakistan’s first Oscar, feted across the country for exposing the horrors endured by women whose faces are obliterated in devastating acid attacks.

Her 40-minute film focuses on Zakia and Rukhsana as they fight to rebuild their lives after being attacked by their husbands, and British Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad who tries to help repair their shattered looks.

When “Saving Face” scooped a coveted gold statuette in the documentary category in Hollywood in February, campaigners were initially jubilant.

The Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan (ASF) had cooperated on the film but some survivors now fear a backlash in a deeply conservative society — and are taking legal action against the producers.

“We had no idea it would be a hit and win an Oscar. It’s completely wrong. We never allowed them to show this film in Pakistan,” said Naila Farhat, 22, who features fleetingly in the documentary.

She was 13 when the man she refused to marry threw acid in her face as she walked home from Independence Day celebrations. She lost an eye and her attacker was jailed for 12 years.

After a long, painful recovery, she is training as a nurse.

“This is disrespect to my family, to my relatives and they’ll make an issue of it. You know what it’s like in Pakistan. They gossip all the time if they see a woman in a film,” said Farhat, taut skin where her left eye dissolved.

“We may be in more danger and we’re scared that, God forbid, we could face the same type of incident again. We do not want to show our faces to the world.”

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