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Powerful photos of acid attack survivors shine spotlight on global work of Tower Hamlets charity

PUBLISHED: 20:15 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 20:44 12 September 2017

Acid attack survivor Samir Hussain and photographer Ann-Christine Woehrl at the launch of the exhibition staged by the Acid Survivors Trust Interational in Tower Hamlets. Picture: Emma Youle

Acid attack survivor Samir Hussain and photographer Ann-Christine Woehrl at the launch of the exhibition staged by the Acid Survivors Trust Interational in Tower Hamlets. Picture: Emma Youle

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An exhibition of powerful photographs showing acid attack survivors as they rebuild their lives is aiming to reshape the way others look at people with severe facial scaring.

A neighbour wanted to marry Makima, but when she refused the proposal his mother came over to her house and poured acid into her face while she was sleeping at night. It is her dream to become a police officer to fight for more justice. Picture: Ann-Christine WoehrlA neighbour wanted to marry Makima, but when she refused the proposal his mother came over to her house and poured acid into her face while she was sleeping at night. It is her dream to become a police officer to fight for more justice. Picture: Ann-Christine Woehrl

The intimate images of women set on simple black backdrops portray survivors working and going about their daily lives rather than just depicting their shocking injuries.

Tower Hamlets-based charity Acid Attacks Survivors International (Asti) has staged the gallery show to raise awareness of its efforts to end acid violence around the world.

Photographer Ann-Christine Woehrl, who shot the images, became heavily involved with non-governmental organisations that work with Asti and photographed women in six countries for the series of documentary reportage.

“When we see people with scars, all of us, we don’t quite know how to face them,” she said. “And so they become invisible and nobody looks at them. When I heard about acid violence all over the world and I thought this was something I wanted to focus on, to give a platform to these people who have scars to be visible again and acknowledged.”

Acid survivor Flavia pictured in her parents home in Kampala, Uganda, with her best friends Marion and Rita. Picture: Ann-Christine WoehrlAcid survivor Flavia pictured in her parents home in Kampala, Uganda, with her best friends Marion and Rita. Picture: Ann-Christine Woehrl

Asti is based in St Hilda’s East Community Centre in Bethnal Green and is the only international organisation whose sole purpose is to end acid violence at a global level.

It was founded in 2002 and has worked with a network of six local partners in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Uganda to help provide medical expertise and training, conduct research, campaign for law changes and raise funds to support survivors.

Yet, with the number of acid attacks in Tower Hamlets and across the capital spiralling in the last two years, the charity has also increasingly had a role to play offering support to victims of acid violence in this country.

British survivor Samir Hussain, 29, who was pelted with acid in a random attack at a cinema in Crawley two years ago, and was at the gallery launch, said: “I believe a lot in the work that Asti and Ann-Christine are doing, because being an acid attack victim myself I understand the pain that people go through, and the pain they will go through for the rest of their lives.”

A portrait of acid survivor Nusrat in Islamabad, featured in the exhibition staged by Acid Survivors Trust International. Picture: Ann-Christine WoehrlA portrait of acid survivor Nusrat in Islamabad, featured in the exhibition staged by Acid Survivors Trust International. Picture: Ann-Christine Woehrl

The exhibition will be on display at the Leyden Gallery in Spitalfields from tomorrow until Saturday (September 13-16).

To find out more about Asti and the work it does, visit the charity’s website.

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