After an unknown suspect threw a large cup of battery acid in her face last month, leaving her scarred and blind in one eye, 21-year-old Nafiah Fatima Ikram just wants answers.
Ikram had just driven back to her family’s Elmont home after a 10-hour shift at CVS, where she worked as a pharmacy technician. Her mom, who had been in the passenger seat, scrambled into the house to use the bathroom while Ikram lingered behind. That’s when a man in a black hoodie threw a large cup of battery acid in the college student’s face.
“At the time, I didn’t know it was acid. I started walking because I thought it was just a prank — the substance felt warm, room temperature, like juice thrown on me,” Ikram told NBC News 4 New York. “A couple of seconds later it started to burn, I started to panic and ran into the house.”
According to The New York Times, the acid seared Ikram’s eye and ran down her throat, burning her lungs. Luckily, her mother, a nurse practitioner, rushed her daughter to the bathroom and doused her in water before calling 911 — probably saving her daughter’s life.
Nafiah Ikram Suffered severe Burns and Emotional Trauma
Ikram, who is a pre-med student at Hofstra University, spent three weeks in the hospital with serious burns on her face, eyes, chest, and arms. More than a month since the attack, the college student still has painful burns and difficulty eating. She is legally blind in one eye — possibly for good, doctors warn. “I can just see colors, but that’s it,” Ikram told CNN affiliate WCBS.
Beyond physical injuries, Ikram and her family have also been left with fear and emotional scars. “We cannot relax,” Sheikh Ikram, Ms. Ikram’s father, told The New York Times. “We cannot even sit outside. We are mentally so disturbed.”
Acid Attack Suspect Remains at Large
A month later, the attacker has still not been found. Investigators with the Nassau County Police Department have said they are looking for a man with a skinny build who is about 6 feet 2 inches tall. The man reportedly drove away in a 2013 red Nissan Altima with yellow New York state license plates, according to CAIR New York.
Part of the incident was recorded on a surveillance video (warning: the footage is very graphic). Long Island police officers are offering a $10,000 reward for information that helps with the arrest of the attacker or anyone else involved in the crime, says Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.
The incident has been earning more attention lately, since “Top Chef” and “Taste the Nation” host Padma Lakshmi posted about it on social media. In the post, Lakshmi calls for “Justice for Nafiah, my family friend & victim of an acid attack” and asks people to donate to a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for her treatment — which totaled more than $370,000.
The vicious and seemingly unprovoked attack on Ikram, who is Muslim and of Pakistani descent, comes amid a rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans in NYC and around the country. Experts believe the surge in hate crimes may be fueled by racism tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the Ikram family does not believe that the attack was racially or religiously motivated, in part because it seemed like the suspect waited to attack the daughter and not her mother.
“This is about just humanity, you know?” Ikram told CBS4. “That’s what’s important.”
“I just want to know why.”
Anyone with information is urged to reach out to Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS or at http://nassaucounty.crimestoppersweb.com.