Acid Attack Scars Two British Women in Zanzibar

Share

British citizens Katie Gee and Kirstie Trup had their trip through the east African island of Zanzibar cut short in Stone Town, when two men riding motorcycles threw acid on the their hands, chests, and faces.

The two women were in the final week of their trip across Tanzania. The attack occurred as they walked unaccompanied down a street in Stone Town, an old Swahili trading village and UNESCO World Heritage site. Both women had been working as volunteer teachers on the island. Both are 18 years old.

"The event is a great tragedy, and an attack of this nature against a foreign citizen, has never happened here before," the Zanzibar government said in a statement. "The government is appealing to the general public to assist in the arrest of the offenders and is offering a reward of 10 million shillings (about $6,000) to anyone providing information leading to an arrest."

No one has been apprehended for the crime, and the motive remains unclear. No British citizens have been attacked in Tanzania before. However, CNN points out, the attack "comes against a backdrop of rising extremist Islamist sentiment in the area," and another acid attack levied against "a businessman of Arab origin who had built a mall close to the American Embassy in Dar es Salaam," made the news last month.

Acid attacks are common in many Middle Eastern and South Asian countries, including Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. A growing number of sub-Saharan African countries have seen a rise as well, up to 1,500 attacks annually (and that's just the number of reported cases).

According to a 2011 study by the Cornell Law School and their partners, the attacks are almost always motivated by gender, and a disproportionate number of the victims are women. Many attackers go unpunished.

The Tanzanian government has said it will regulate the sale of acid, and warned the at-large attackers that such attacks could damage the island's tourist industry. They're promising future travelers stepped-up police presence in popular tourist spots.

Tanzanians practice about equal parts Christian, Muslim and indigenous beliefs, but the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar is overwhelmingly Muslim.

The women's relatives have asked for privacy until they are reunited with their daughters in the U.K. this evening.