Acid attack survivor views challenges as life lessons and helps others to find hope
Updated: May 8, 2020
"I am proud of my hard work, but I am not proud of myself. I judge myself first before I judge others," is written on the Facebook page of activist Jabed Hussain, 35.
Jabed raises awareness of knife and acid crimes in London, collects clothes for children of the poor and visits families in need. He works for and supports Workers Union London which hosted demonstrations and multiple events seeking to draw the government's attention to street crimes spiralling out of control. He and his friends rushed to help Grenfell Tower fire victims in June of 2017.
Once coronavirus reached London, Jabed started delivering food to the homeless and vulnerable.
He helps others not only because he experienced hardship as an immigrant.
One event particularly shook up his life and beliefs
Acid Attack Victim
On a warm July evening of 2017, Jabed was heading home after delivering the last UberEats order. He stopped at an intersection and waited for the traffic light to change.
Unexpectedly, he heard a water splash sound: "I looked around. I thought somebody was playing and spilling water at passersby." A group of young men pushed him off his bike and disappeared into the traffic. He said:
I touch my helmet. The liquid started dripping onto my face. It started burning. Burning. Burning. Like a fire.
Motorbike thieves poured acid at him.
In 2017, London gained a reputation as a capital of acid attacks committed by young men on men. That year police recorded 465 acid crimes. Gang members were using acid to intimidate victims, leverage disputes or disorient bikers to steal their motorcycles. The liquid was replacing guns since it was impossible to trace it back to the offender.
Jabed confessed that it took him a long time to recover after the attack. He lost his bike, his source of income, and his spirits dropped. "I had debts. I was not feeling safe getting back to work," he said. But he also realised that if he keeps silent, nothing will change.
"I needed to educate parents so that their children would not become gang members. I also wanted my friends to feel safe on the streets," he said. Jabed lives in Newham. It is London's borough where many immigrants found their new homes but where poverty and crime are part of a daily reality.
Father's "preaching" guides through life
Jabed moved to the UK from Bangladesh 25 years ago. He grew up in a big family: his parents were raising six children. His father was a very busy businessman and his mother took care of their home and children. "I was scared of my mom, just her look made us behave," he remembered. Nevertheless, Jabed calls his mom a "guardian angel."
After his business trips, Jabed's father liked sharing his life insights and wisdom with the children. Jabed admitted, he was not particularly interested in his father's "preaching" at that time but one piece of advice stuck with him for life:
No matter what are your life circumstances, always eat what you like.
In other words, that if a person keeps accumulating more and more possessions such as cars or homes, eventually things create more problems: more payments and more things to organise. "But if you always eat what you like, it keeps you strong and healthy," Jabed said.
Anger motivated to create change
Jabed dreamt of being a lawyer. However, the lack of income forced him to start working at the age of 17. He worked as a waiter and as a bike-delivery boy. Now Jabed is taking care of his own family and is raising a son and a daughter.
"I was angry after the accident. I could not understand, why these young men turn into criminals. I also grew up being poor, but I did not become one of them," he said. Jabed started visiting local immigrant families and talking to parents about the dangers young children might face on the streets. "Children are very smart these days. Often their parents do not speak English well, do not understand the technology and cannot relate to their children," he said.
He started knocking on the doors of London's officials, politicians and journalists in hope of drawing their attention to the hardships of London's lowest-paid workers such as independent delivery boys and restaurant workers.
Small issues eventually become big problems. People need to be united and speak up about their problems, then we might be heard and change will come to our lives. Jabed believes.
Jabed was nominated for GG2 Spirit in the Community Award for his work to raise awareness of acid attacks and knife crime in 2018.
Jabed himself draws strength and motivation to fight for the wellbeing of others form his dad's teachings and religion:
"Every day I wake up to work under the Sun and I do not hate problems. I view problems as lessons. Every day I am learning something new by listening and working with people."
I met Jabed Hussain while studying at the City University in 2019. I was working on my radio project and I was desperately trying to find experts for my story on knife crimes in London. After multiple rejections for comments from experts, officials, non-profit organisations, I feared that I will not be able to complete my task before the deadline. I stumbled upon Jabed's name accidentally, while searching the Internet and reached out to him as my last resort. During our first conversation I was taken aback by his willingness not only to share his story, but also to help me complete my homework on time.
All images are from Jabed Hussain's personal album on his Facebook account.