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Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK

World: South Asia

Joyous homecoming for acid attack victims

Six Bangladeshi women, who received horrific injuries in acid attacks by angry husbands or jilted lovers, have returned home to an emotional welcome after plastic surgery in Spain.

Relatives greeted the women with sobs and hugs of joy.

The six are the first batch of 20 women to receive free medical treatment at a Spanish clinic specialising in plastic surgery.

[ image: Mosammat Monria: After plastic surgery]
Mosammat Monria: After plastic surgery
The women underwent months of treatment for their injuries.

One of the vicitms, Mosammat Monira, had surgery to reconstruct her eyelids, neck, nose, lips and an ear.

"I almost couldn't recognise you," her father, Gazi Rahman, said as he hugged her.

Married at the age of 10, she was attacked last year by her husband who was angry at the amount of the dowry paid by her family.

Other victims were attacked after rejecting potential suitors, or in disputes with family members over land and marriage.

The free treatment was arranged by the Bangladesh Acid Survivors Foundation in conjunction with a group of Spanish surgeons.

At a news conference in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, Spanish surgeon Roberto Molto, who accompanied the women back home, said: "Our company will be happy to conduct plastic surgery on more Bangladeshi acid victims."

The actual number of such attacks is difficult to document because many cases go unreported.

The Dhaka office of Unicef reported 200 cases of acid violence last year, an increase from the 130 cases reported in 1997.

But the actual number is higher, the agency said in a recent report.

Nasrin Hoque of Naripakkho, a women's rights organisation, said the while the physical wounds could be treated the emotional scars would remain with the victims their entire lives.

She said: "No one can give back the girls their lost beauty, but we can at least give them a face back and tell them they are not neglected."

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