A Muslim model who suffered an acid attack last month penned a moving letter about her ordeal just hours before last night's attack in Hackney.
Resham Khan wrote the letter from her hospital bed, less than a month after she was assaulted on her 21st birthday in Beckton, east London.
She wrote: “My plans are in pieces; my pain is unbearable, and I write this letter in hospital whilst I patiently wait for the return of my face.”
Khan added that she is in a “living nightmare” and says she "cannot sit back whilst others remain indoors in fear of this happening to them.
"This problem needs to be eliminated. I refuse to allow the country I grew up in to simply get used to corrosive substance attacks. The fear is real. The crime is real.”
On Tuesday (July 11) John Tomlin appeared in court on charges of grievous bodily harm with intent in relation to the attack on Khan. Tomlin is now being held in custody and is to appear at Snaresbrook Crown Court on August 8.
A fundraising page for the victims has now been set up and has raised over £57,000. You can access the fundraising page, and donate, by clicking here.
Her calls for acid attacks to end came just hours before five attacks took place in north-east London where corrosive substances were thrown at people's faces.
Here is the full transcript of the letter:
To, every individual that stands for a better tomorrow
Although I will send this letter directly to numerous members of parliament and retailers of corrosive substances, I also extend this letter to the public. To every individual that has expressed their support of the petition to prohibit and license the sale of acid, to each person that took an interest in my story, and to every person that condemns corrosive substances being used as a weapon.
I invite you all in once again to reflect upon my 21st birthday. A milestone age for many reasons, we must remember that any opportunity to mark or celebrate the occasion was stolen from me. Stolen in one of the most painfully scarring ways I could ever imagine. My plans are in pieces; my pain is unbearable, and I write this letter in hospital whilst I patiently wait for the return of my face. I needed a way to come to terms with the attack, a way to tell the world about what had happened to me so I could avoid the looks of surprise, shock and pity. In the spare of the moment, I began to type the Twitter thread that would go viral. I wanted to express the attack in my own words, no one was going to describe my attack, my story, but me. The power of social media came into effect, and soon enough the mainstream media picked up the story. I never would have believed how much of a conversation the attack generated, or the amount of support extended to me and my family from people all around the world. With conversation came questions. Why did this attack happen? What led to the event? But more importantly: Why is acid, or corrosive substances, so easy to obtain and be used as a weapon?
Currently, I have two main priorities: to make a full recovery and to make sure no one ever goes through the living nightmare I have endured. Since the attack and the vast media coverage, the disturbing rise of attacks using corrosive substances as a weapon has been brought to the public’s attention. In London, the number of incidents involving corrosive substances has rose from 186 between 2014 and 2015 to 397 in 2016 and 2017. Street gangs are now using these life-changing substances instead of guns and knives. Why are acids the new street weapon? Because corrosive substances are readily available in-store and online for as little as £6.50 and the laws surrounding possession is loose.
I cannot sit back whilst others remain indoors in fear of this happening to them. This problem needs to be eliminated. I refuse to allow the country I grew up in to simply get used to corrosive substance attacks. The fear is real. The crime is real. And I propose that action be taken now:
- The Metropolitan Police play a vital role in shaping the approach individuals take towards atrocious acts. As they still haven’t, we humbly ask the force to; provide the public with a sincere statement condemning corrosive substance attacks, providing the United Kingdom with reassurance that they are determined to stamp out this vile act. By declaring a zero-tolerance stance, this will deter criminals and send out a clear message to the citizens of this country – that they are safe and protected. There is no place in any society for corrosive substance attacks, so let’s send have those that protect us remind the country.
- From the easy, cheap instore sale of these substances in its many forms, to the ease of online sales to anyone with debit card details, we ask on retailers to act more responsibly in regards to corrosive substances. We are hopeful retailers consider making regulation changes and to the rules surrounding the sales of corrosive substances. By recognizing and acting on the influence retailers have on the accessibility of getting corrosive substances on the street, we hope retailers contribute in helping to create a safer society.
- Although attacks don’t last for long, all the victims of corrosive substance attacks are left with a life time of physical and psychological pain and scarring. Whilst in hospital I have learnt that it is not just the burn or the scar, its everything else; preparing to face the world again feeling like a different person, all the time spent in fear of and in pain due to procedures, spending hours questioning how and if the world will accept you, and wondering why any human being would do this to another human being. The person that attacked me didn’t want to just take away my face, he wanted to burn all aspects of my life. For this, I ask that the UK government introduce stricter punishment for those that choose to scorch innocent people.
- In regards to corrosive substances themselves, knowing the correct way to approach the problem has proved challenging. We ask for the possession of corrosive substances without good reason to become a punishable offense and that legislation on the possession of an offensive weapon be updated to include certain concentrations of corrosive substances, and that advice and guidance is provided to prosecutors so that is effectively recognised this as a serious offence.
- Additionally, we propose the UK government impose licensing regulations for the buying of corrosive substances. Depending on the concentration levels of the corrosive substance, the harsher products should only be sold to those that possess a license. Combined with stronger controls, we are confident this will prevent corrosive substances from falling into the wrong hands, whilst still allowing for lower concentration levels to be sold by retailers acting responsibly.
I am writing this letter with hope. I am hopeful the UK government, retailers and the public will stand by me and other victims against corrosive substances being used as weapons. I’m 21 now campaigning for change, but I spent my birthday in hospital. I can’t dwell on the past but what I can do is help build a better future, one without attacks like these.
Thank you for taking the time to reflect on my birthday, and I hope you consider our proposals.