New York Student Severely Burned In Acid Attack Believes She Was Targeted

“This was a worse-than-death experience,” Nafiah Ikram says.

April 28, 2021

Photo of Nafiah Ikram before the attack [via Shazia Anjum's GoFundMe fundraiser for Nafiah]

Photo of Nafiah Ikram before the attack [via Shazia Anjum's GoFundMe fundraiser for Nafiah]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

Police continue to search for the unknown assailant who attacked a 21-year-old Long Island college student with a caustic substance, leaving her with severe burns.

“The horrific acid attack on Nafiah Ikram in Elmont is under active investigation by our Police Department,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said, according to The Island Now. “What happened to Nafiah is unacceptable, and we are committed to getting to the bottom of it.”

On the evening of March 17, surveillance video of the attack posted on YouTube shows Ikram, who was returning from work, walking from a car parked on the street toward her house. Ikram later said she noticed her attacker standing nearby and rushed to get inside her home because the situation felt off.

In the security camera footage, the assailant can be seen running across the yard and up to her and then back in the same direction he came from.

A GoFundMe page noted Ikram would have died if the hazardous material tossed on her had entered her lungs.

“When Nafiah screamed it caused the acid to go into her mouth, burning her tongue and throat, which prevented her from breathing,” reads a description of the attack posted on the fundraising site. “When Nafiah ran into her house and her parents saw her, they immediately tried to help her, but in the process the acid burned their hands and forearms as well. If her parents were not home to help her and call 911 right away, she would not have made it.”

The brown substance thrown into Ikram’s face melted her contacts onto her eyes, and experts are uncertain if she will ever fully regain her vision.

Ikram explained to New York’s WABC-TV that it felt like her “face was fully on fire.”

“This was a worse-than-death experience,” she told the station. “I was in that ambulance and I felt my chest being ripped out of my soul. That's how much pain I was in.”

She said she believes she was targeted in the acid attack but is uncertain for what reason.

“That's what I ask myself every single day. It just doesn't make sense,” she told WABC-TV. “I would like to think I'm a very outgoing and friendly person. I keep thinking, what could I have possibly said or done to someone for them to want to hurt me this much?”

In an April 21 tweet, U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice requested the New York State Hate Crimes Task Force to help the Nassau County Police Department in investigating the “vicious attack” on Ikram, who is Asian-American and Muslim.

Police have not yet determined a motive for the crime against the pre-med Hofstra coed.

“We have no evidence at this time to say it was a hate crime, we have no evidence at this time to say that it was not a hate crime, we treat our victims the same,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said at a news conference.

The suspect is described as a male around 6 feet, 2 inches tall with a skinny build who may have been driving a 2013-2015 red Nissan Altima with yellow New York plates. He wore gloves and a black hooded sweatshirt and carried a white cap.

Police are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect. Anyone who knows anything about the attack is encouraged to contact Nassau County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-244-TIPS or online.

Asian Americans have experienced a significant increase in violent attacks, harassment, and hate crimes in the last year. If you witness an incident, you can report it to the Asian Americans Advancing Justice’s site Stand Against Hatred and the Stop AAPI Hate tracker.

For more safety tips for those experiencing or witnessing hate, please visit Stop AAPI Hate.

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