After she was attacked with acid, this 18-year-old became a voice for change.
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You may remember Reshma Quereshi from the Make Love Not Scars campaign.

The campaign came from an Indian nonprofit that supports survivors of acid attacks, and I covered it for Upworthy in September.

Quereshi starred in one-minute, lighthearted, cheerful videos offering beauty tips just like any other makeup tutorial. Until, that is, she shared just how easy it is for would-be attackers to procure strong acid in India.


GIFS via Make Love Not Scars/YouTube.

Public Radio International traveled to Mumbai to catch up with Quereshi 18 months after the attack that changed her life.

Since her attack in the spring of 2014, Quereshi has been on a long, difficult road to recovery.

In May 2014, Quereshi was doused with sulphuric acid by her brother-in-law and a group of his friends after her sister decided to leave him. The first hospital she went to turned her away, telling her it was a police matter, not a medical one, a decision that probably cost Quereshi her left eye.

Image via Public Radio International/YouTube.

She underwent multiple skin grafts to repair her face and eye socket and still has many many surgeries to go.

"My head hurts. My scalp hurts. They've taken skin from all over my body to rebuild my face," Quereshi told PRI through a translator.

When she ventures outside, Quereshi feels each and every stare.

The gazes from strangers are cruel and biting. It is torture — much like the lingering pain she feels from the acid attack and subsequent procedures. This unwanted scrutiny and shame were simply insults added to injury.

Image via Public Radio International/YouTube.

But with the help of other survivors and the support of her family, Quereshi is speaking out.

Through her physician, Quereshi met a fellow acid-attack survivor who was in worse shape than she was.

"I look at this girl and looking at her pain and her situation actually took me outside of myself for the first time," she said.

An estimated 1500 acid attacks are recorded each year and 349 in India alone.

There are thousands of women just like Quereshi who are left with physical and emotional scars from these cruel, painful crimes. Many don't leave home, hiding out inside, away from unwanted attention. Meanwhile, perpetrators of acid attacks often go unpunished.

Image via Public Radio International/YouTube.

Though she was hesitant about her appearance, the injustice was too much to bear, and Quereshi decided to speak out.

"These boys, they look at a pretty face and they can't have it, and they throw acid in her face, and they spoil an entire life. And the ones who did this are running around free. [While] we're the ones confined to a room."

Since they debuted, Quereshi's videos garnered over 1.8 million views! And the petition to limit the sale of sulphuric acid in India now boasts more than 273,000 signatures. It's forward momentum, and Quereshi is leading the way.

She's come a long way since the brutal attack, and she looks forward to helping other survivors.

She still gets stares when she leaves her home. But Quereshi's not going to let that stop her from making a difference.

She hopes to continue to be a voice for survivors. The incident forced her to reevaluate what strength and beauty really mean. It's a challenge for anyone in that situation, especially a teenager.

But Quereshi is assertive and she carries herself with a grace and poise generally reserved for someone much older than her 18 years, telling PRI:

"What matters is what's on the inside. What matters is your heart. If you're heart's clean, your face will reflect it in a different way."

Learn more about Qreshi's life since the incident in this stirring video from Public Radio International.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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