Fakhra Younus
Pakistani acid attack victim Fakhra Younus, whose face was disfigured after her ex-husband poured acid on her face committed suicide in Italy. http://www.facebook.com/photo.

Acid attack victim Fakhra Younus committed suicide 12 years after her husband was accused of pouring acid on her face, disfiguring her for life and forcing her to undergo dozens of operations.

Her 12-year battle for justice and her struggle to come to terms with the horrific injuries inflicted on her ended tragically when she threw herself out of a sixth-floor window in Rome where she was receiving medical treatment.

Younus's body was flown to Pakistan where she was buried. But with her death, the issue of domestic violence in Pakistan has taken centrestage again.

Her husband was never charged but her story highlights the ongoing tragedy of Pakistan's shame in its treatment of women.

Younus came from a low-income Pakistani family and with her mother addicted to heroin, she said had little choice but to start working as a "dancing girl" at the age of 11.

She soon became a sex worker and one client reportedly bought her virginity for $2,000, a set of gold jewellery and a Rado watch.

She met her soon-to-be husband Bilal Khar, the son of Ghulam Mustafa Khar, a former governor of Punjab province, when she was 18. She already had a son when they met at a party in Karachi.

But things started to change rapidly after they got married. Her husband allegedly regularly physically and verbally abused her and she left him to return to live with her mother who was living in Karachi.

She said it did not take Khar long to track her down and attack her with acid. One day in May 2000 she was taking a nap when she heard him call her name before he poured acid on her.

The acid burned the hair off her head, fused her lips, blinded her in one eye, dissolved her left ear and melted her breasts.

As she struggled to get her shattered life - and body - back together, she turned to Tehmina Durrani, the ex-wife of Khar's father, for help in finding justice and medical help. In a country where speaking out against domestic abuse carries a high risk, they both found themselves on the receiving end of death threats.

Her family filed a complaint with the police against Khar over the attack but he was never formally arrested and walked free. He claimed he was innocent and blamed another man.

Before long, the women had formed a close bond. Durrani helped Younus, who was in dire need of medical treatment, move to Italy. The government in Rome and women's support groups helped her. Before she died, she underwent three dozen operations.

But after 12 years, Younus could take it no longer and ended her life. Reports suggest that her suicide note contained a protest against the silence of the law on domestic violence in Pakistan.