Canada: Muslim woman fears acid attack reprisal

From The Toronto Sun

Muslim woman fears reprisal

Claims death threats for working in men’s hair salon

By TOM GODFREY, Toronto Sun

Last Updated: April 22, 2010 5:21pm

A Muslim woman fighting to stay in Canada fears being disfigured with acid for allegedly “bringing shame” to her ex-husband’s family in Pakistan by leaving him and travelling here to work in a hair salon frequented by men.

Roohi Tabassum, 45, of Brampton, said corrosive acid is thrown in the faces of women in Pakistan and other Islamic countries to disfigure them because they have allegedly “shamed” their families.

Tabassum said there have been two incidents the past month in Pakistan where women’s faces were burned with acid by assailants who fled.

“I don’t leave the house or go anywhere because I am scared,” she said. “Sometimes the women are also disabled, burned or tortured.”

Tabassum claims family members in Pakistan are still receiving threats from ex-husband, Faisal Javed, who has threatened to kill her.

“He (ex-husband) is determined to have me killed or crippled,” she said. “I am very concerned for myself.”

Tabassum entered Canada from the U.S. in 2001 and filed a failed refugee claim. She faces deportation to the U.S., and then to Pakistan, which is under appeal before an Immigration and Refugee Board.

She claimed Javed is angered because she works in a salon that styles men’s hair and suspects she has a boyfriend, which she denies.

Her lawyer Max Berger said 1,200 to 1,500 women were killed in 2007 from honour killings in Pakistan, according to U.S. Department of State statistics.

“This is a very legitimate concern that she has,” Berger said. “These type of honour killings or attacks are not uncommon in Pakistan.”

He successfully obtained refugee status for a Pakistani woman 10 years ago who had “half her face burned in an acid attack” due from bringing shame to a family.

Tarek Fatah, of the Muslim Canadian Congress, said acid attacks against women do occur and can be for a disgracing a family.

“Women are at the bottom of the rung of the ladder in this culture,” Fatah said. “We just cannot dismiss her claim outright.”

Police and immigration officials are not aware of an acid attack against a woman in Canada.

Related: Girls poisoned at Afghan school.

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