An unknown man threw acid on a Pakistani college student in Long Island, a suburb of New York City, disfiguring her face and shattering her life in an attack that activists want investigated as an anti-Muslim hate crime.
Nafiah Ikram, 21, and her mother were getting out of their car outside their home on March 17 when the man rushed up to her, threw a caustic liquid at her face and ran off. She was left severely burned and nearly blind.
Nafiah is studying medicine at Hofstra University and has plans to be a doctor. She was rushed to the hospital by her mother, who also works there.
Her father, Sheikh Ikram, 50, said Nafiah was targeted on her way home from work.
“No, it’s not a random attack, it’s a planned attack,” The New York Post, a mass-circulation tabloid, quoted him as saying.
The FBI warned at the start of the Covid outbreak in the US that it expected a surge in hate crimes against those of Asian descent. Federal hate crime data for 2020 has not yet been released, though hate crimes in 2019 were at their highest level in over a decade.
Late last year, the United Nations issued a report that detailed “an alarming level” of racially motivated violence and other hate incidents in U.S. The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate said it received more than 2,800 reports of hate incidents nationwide last year.
Covid ‘hate crimes’ on rise:BBC Report
An elderly Thai immigrant dies after being shoved to the ground. A Filipino-American is slashed in the face with a box cutter. A Chinese woman is slapped and then set on fire. These are just examples of recent violent attacks on Asian Americans, part of a surge in abuse since the start of the pandemic a year ago.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder asked anyone with information on the attack on Nafiah to come forward and call, announcing a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
“This attack was a vicious and heinous crime and I am personally requesting anyone with knowledge to come forward,” he said.
“My whole life changed in a matter of five minutes,” Nafiah said in an interview with WCBS-TV. “We don’t realize what we have until it’s gone.”
She was all but blinded by the attack. “I can just see colors, but that’s it,” she told WCBS. “I want to know, like, what’s the reason? Like, what could I have possibly done to somebody?”
Nafiah is just starting to talk again, but still struggles to eat or drink, because acid burned her throat, her father said.
“She is very scared. My wife, she sleeps with her every night,” Ikram, he father said.
“She can not shower herself, she gets scared when the water goes in her face.. so my wife has to go in the washroom with her to bathe her. And both arms are burned, she can not do anything. So it’s very, very painful.”
Nafiah struggles to see even a few feet in front of her, and the family is praying she will be able to regain her vision.
The family says it is stunned by the outpouring of generosity and support from family and friends. Almost $300,000 has been raised in donations to pay for medical costs.
Ikram pleaded with his daughter’s attacker to turn himself in before he hurts someone else Wednesday night.
“We just want to say, think about it… what you did to my daughter. Please don’t do [it] to anyone else.
“We are just hoping that that person will get caught because we don’t want anyone else to be in that condition.”