Neela leads despite all barriers

Mental strength and commitment helped Neela (left) to cross the hurdles

Despite the violence directed at her, Neela finds ways to inspire others.

Name: Ayesha Siddika Neela
Father: Abdul Auwal
Mother: Samina Khatun
Age:17 years
Address: Shahjadpur village, Sirajgonj
Place of the violence: Neela’s home
Date and time:18 February 2008 around 2 am
Motive: revenge after failing to traffic Neela in the Middle East
Status of the case filed: Court verdict is death by hanging; convict is in Rajshahi jail now
Details: In 2008, Neela was a 15 years girl and studying in Class 9 in a local school. She was good-looking; her parents were in a hurry to get her married off. [Ref. parents consider marriage to be the best way to avoid unwanted attentions from boys/men, which does not end happily normally] Neela’s parents come to know that one Akbar Ali (aka Jelhok) has come from Saudi Arabia to get married.

Against Neela’s will, her parents get her married to Akbar Ali, who was much older. After some days, Neela overhear that Ali was talking with his cousin in Middle East about trafficking. From then on, she stood against going with Ali to Saudi Arabia.

This creates tension among them, which within days turned into mental and physical torture. On 18 February 2008 after midnight, Ali tried to force acid into Neela’s face. Neela fought back but could not save herself completely. Her face, chest and hands got burned with acid.

She was shortly after admitted to Shahjadpur Health Complex. As her conditione worsened, she was moved to Burn Unit of Dhaka Medical. She has recovered from the wounds and pain but the mark remains. The shock lingered for months.

Our local partner SHARP’s official Shopna Sen informs private TV channel E-TV that make a documentary on Neela and broadcast. In the proceeding of the case at court, Judge orders for arrest of Ali with his two assistants. All of them were in the hiding. Only 2 months before the verdict (on 24 August, 2009) in Sirajgonj special tribunal, police captured all three of them. Ali was found guilty and received the verdict.

ActionAid’s project ‘Prevention of Acid Violence’ started in Sirajgonj in 2006. After the incident in 2008, Neela was given psychosocial counseling once she returned from Dhaka Medical. In November that year, she was brought along the workshops for regeneration of self-esteem. At the same time, she joined ActionAid’s ‘Setu Bandhan Gori’ network and participate various meetings, workshops and seminars on equal rights, inclusive living, learning life-skills etc. She also came in close contact with other survivors. She got reenrolled in school and passed the secondary school certificate examination (i.e., SSC).

She was inspired to learn computer operations and after years of committed group work, she now works with SHARP as staff and the District Focal person of ‘Setu Bandhan Gori’ network. She is also studying in College and receiving regular trainings on Computer operations. She is assisting other survivors in mentoring and sharing all the necessary information.

Neela dreams to live normally like any other person of the society and is confident that she will always try to hinder any such case of violence and support any survivors.