Juliette dreams of someday marrying a nice man. One unlike the monster who poured acid on her in a jealous rage in July 2007. We are sitting with this young woman, just 19 years old, on a porch near a church in Kampala, Uganda. Juliette is beautiful on the side of her face that she shows to the world. Her eyes are bright and she has a radiant smile. The other side of her face she covers with long braids. It prevents the fearful looks from those who pass her by. It covers the half of her face that was destroyed in the brutal acid attack that sent her to the hospital for five months and disfigured her for life. “I open?” she asks. She lifts her hair to show what remains and tells her story.
Juliette speaks about the hard life that made her run away from her village and head to Kampala. Her dad died when she was a baby and her mom passed away when she was 9. She was left with an aunt who thought she was a burden. Juliette was beaten and tormented so at 13 she took off. In Kampala she made some friends and they would go clubbing. She met a guy, got pregnant at 14 and had a daughter the next year. The guy was into drugs. She didn’t love him. At 18, she wanted a new life. When Juliette finally decided to leave him he attacked her. Juliette speaks about that night in a strong voice. She doesn’t want you to turn away. She wants you to hear the story about how he came to her door with battery acid and changed her life forever.
“Before I was looking good I was having my two eyes two ears two nose but now I’m like this. I didn’t know the time would come like this you know when he poured acid. It was like a dream. When he poured me he bring it in a cup then he poured and said let me finish you you fool. After pouring me he went he run. I was alone in my room it was really hot. More pain more pain.”
Juliette endured excruciating skin grafts. She lost her eye, her ear, and has burns on her neck and leg. Her faith in God got her through the ordeal and, despite the agony she endured, she forgave her attacker. “When I was in the hospital that boy came who poured acid. He said do you love me yes or not but in my heart it was good I was saying my God no matter what I forgive him. Even though he poured me acid I forgive him. I said God you create him and you create me before so if you decide me to look like this I’ll continue life. I can’t kill myself. I said God let me forgive that guy.”
Juliette says there are hundreds of women in Kampala who have suffered a similar fate to hers. In the ward where she recovered there were 30. As is often the case, the man who attacked Juliette was never prosecuted, but because of the courageous testimonies of women like Juliette, this most brutal of human rights abuses is being exposed. In Tehran, Iran, a spurned suitor who threw acid and blinded a woman will literally give an eye for an eye. Islamic law is allowing Ameneh Bahrami to see her attacker blinded. If the sentence is carried out he will have the same acid placed in each of his eyes and she will see justice. In Kandahar, Afghanistan, 10 Taliban militants have been arrested for throwing acid in the faces of schoolgirls simply because they chose to get an education. The men each got paid the equivalent of $2000 US for the November attack. Students are afraid to return to the Mirwais Meena girls school. Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, has been reporting about acid attacks in neighboring Pakistan where 7800 have been documented in Islamabad alone.
Juliette walks in the world and hopes people will look past her damaged face and see the beauty inside her. She sings songs that honor God and Africa. She finds comfort in Jesus and her church, in an acid survivors support group and in BeadforLife (www.beadforlife.org) which has taught her to make bead jewelry so she can earn a living and take care of herself and her daughter. Juliette hopes a doctor will help repair the damage from the attack and even dreams she will be married someday. She begs people not to reject victims of acid attacks. And Juliette plans to give back to others too. “In my future, I’d like to help orphanage, lame people, widow. I want to help some of them when I’m somebody, I’m somewhere. I’d like to help to show them they’re still someone. They can do more. They can go somewhere.”
For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com