Acid attack victim fights for face, life
Sanaa Ahmed looks at her prosthetic eye in a mirror. She was attacked by her cousin in Egypt at the age of 13. - Photos by M. Sajjad
Dubai - Ahmed landed in Dubai last month with her mother to get orbital-eye prosthesis at Omniyati Prosthetics Arts Centre.
By Sherouk Zakaria
Published: Wed 30 Aug 2017, 8:27 PM
"Here's your engagement gift," her cousin said before pouring acid on her face that would forever disfigure her.
Eight years later, Egyptian Sanaa Ahmed, 22, is still struggling with her burns that melted away her right eye and nasal tissues, while leaving her permanently disfigured.
Photos of Sanaa before and after the acid attack
"My cousin attacked me with acid during my engagement party (in Egypt) after he had asked to marry me, which his parents refused. The act was out of jealousy as he did not want me to belong to someone else," said Ahmed from Kafr El Sheikh, situated in the northern part of Egypt. She was 13 at the time of the attack.
Ahmed landed in Dubai last month with her mother to get orbital-eye prosthesis at Omniyati Prosthetics Arts Centre that would help restore her confidence. In February, the American Academy of the Cosmetic Surgery Hospital in Dubai performed skin graft inlay in her right eye socket to enable the prosthesis to be applied.
Ahmed is among 1,500 people who get attacked by acid annually worldwide. About 80 per cent of the acid victims are women, and 40-70 per cent of them are under 18.
Going back home for Eid, she said she will be celebrating happily after getting her prosthesis. "I feel much better now and I'm happy that I will get back to my university looking strikingly different. I'm ready for my final year at university," said Ahmed, who studies business in Cairo.
Ahmed's treatment is currently on pause as she needs Dh35,000 worth of operations to release her right eyelid that will enable her to shut her eye. She also needs to fix her upper lip that doesn't allow her to fully open her mouth and have facial fat-injections.
"The doorbell rang and as soon as (Sanaa) opened, her cousin poured a big amount of acid on her. Parts of the iron door that were touched by acid melted. Her grandma's arms got burned as she reached out to hug (Sana)," said her mother Nadia AbdelSamad.
Ahmed had undergone 75 surgeries in Egypt to restore her damaged skin, and stayed in the ICU for a year. Refusing to let her injuries define her life, AbdelSamad insisted on putting her daughter in school to finish her education. She escorted her to school every day on a wheelchair during her 9th grade until she passed her exams.
"At the beginning, the school rejected her because of how she looked. They said she would scare children off," AbdelSamad said.
"I yelled at them and said if Taha Hussain could overcome his visual impairment and get educated to become a prominent author, she should have a chance too."
Ahmed graduated from high school with honors and has one year to go in university with a plan to find a job to support herself financially and help other acid attack victims.
She said she hopes society would stop treating victims differently. "I get hurt when children run off, or I see people whisper as they see me. I hope we reach a point where we aren't treated differently," said Ahmed.
"We don't come from a rich background so her education was the only way to give her the independence she needs to support herself," her mother said.
Meanwhile, her cousin was sentenced to 10 years in jail shortly after the attack.