Lucia Annibali: From acid attack victim to Italy Parliament candidate

In 2013, a hooded man sprayed Lucia Annibali with sulphonic acid, severely disfiguring her face and almost blinding her. (AFP)
Updated 28 February 2018
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Lucia Annibali: From acid attack victim to Italy Parliament candidate

PARMA: After overcoming a brutal acid attack organized by an ex-lover, Lucia Annibali is using her power as a symbol of the battle against gender-based violence to take that fight to Italy’s Parliament.
A lawyer, Annibali has bounced back from almost losing her sight and a raft of facial reconstructive surgery to become a major voice drawing attention to violence against women.
Now she is running in the March 4 election for the center-left Democratic Party (PD) in the northeast city of Parma.
“After being attacked I thought about how I could best start again,” she told AFP.
“I had to find the best way to make the most of my work as a lawyer and realized that politics could be the right way.”
Parma is in a left-wing stronghold — famous for Parmesan cheese — and the locals seem well disposed toward the 40-year-old candidate.
It is the city of her renaissance where she went under the knife around 20 times to reconstruct her face and where she was made an honorary citizen in 2015.
“We hope that a woman who has shown such an ability to get her life back on track will make the most of her potential in public life,” said Enrico Bruschi, a pharmacist in center city Parma.
Annibali’s life changed forever on April 6, 2013, when returning from work to her home in Pesaro in eastern Italy, a hooded man appeared and sprayed her with sulphonic acid, severely disfiguring her face and almost blinding her.
“My face was cooking, I was screaming so much, there were little bubbles moving on my cheeks,” she said later describing the horrendous assault.
As she was rushed to the burns unit of a hospital in Parma, some two-and-half-hours away, Annibali named her former fiance, also a lawyer, who in 2016 would be sentenced to 20 years in prison for hiring two Albanian men to carry out the attack.
Later that year, then-head of the Department of Equal Opportunities Maria Elena Boschi invited Annibali to become an adviser, a role she still carries out today. “The attack changed my life for the better,” she now says.
“Regaining my sight and relearning to eat are all battles that make you truly appreciate the value of life.”
Italy’s domestic violence figures are below the European average of 33 percent, with 27 percent of Italian women over the age of 15 saying that they have suffered physical or sexual violence.
Italy is also lower than Denmark (52 percent), Finland (47 percent), France and the United Kingdom (44 percent), according to the first European-wide study published in 2014 by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency.
However, the authors of the report note that women in southern European countries also often keep silent about some forms of violence.
Figures published by Italy’s national statistics body Istat show that just 11 percent of Italian women who have been victims of gender-based violence press charges, while over 80 percent of women who are sexually blackmailed at work speak to no one about the incident.
But the worldwide #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment is having an impact in Italy where actress Asia Argento’s prominent role in the campaign has brought violence against women to the forefront of public debate.
“If we’ve been talking a lot about these cases in Italy in recent years, it’s because women have armed themselves with the courage to speak out.”


Some see signs of hope on North Korea as Trump heads to UN

Updated 22 September 2018
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Some see signs of hope on North Korea as Trump heads to UN

  • In the year since Trump’s searing, debut UN speech fueled fears of nuclear conflict with North Korea
  • The two leaders have turned from threats to flattery

WASHINGTON:North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is “little rocket man” no more. President Donald Trump isn’t a “mentally deranged US dotard.”
In the year since Trump’s searing, debut UN speech fueled fears of nuclear conflict with North Korea, the two leaders have turned from threats to flattery.
And there’s fresh hope that the US president’s abrupt shift from coercion to negotiation can yield results in getting Kim to halt, if not abandon, his nuclear weapons program.
Trump will address world leaders at the United Nations on Tuesday on the back of an upbeat summit between South and North Korea, where Kim promised to dismantle a major rocket launch site and the North’s main nuclear complex at Nyongbyon if it gets some incentive from Washington.
North Korea remains a long, long way from relinquishing its nuclear arsenal, and the US has been adding to, not easing, sanctions. Yet the past 12 months have seen a remarkable change in atmosphere between the adversaries that has surprised even the former US envoy on North Korea.
“If someone had told me last year that North Korea will stop nuclear tests, will stop missile tests and that they will release the remaining American prisoners and that they would be even considering dismantling Nyongbyon, I would have taken that in a heartbeat,” said Joseph Yun, who resigned in March and has since left the US foreign service.
Since Trump and Kim held the first summit between US and North Korean leaders in Singapore in June, Trump has missed no chance to praise “Chairman Kim,” and Kim has expressed “trust and confidence” in the American president he once branded “senile.”
But progress has been slow toward the vague goal they agreed upon — denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which has eluded US presidents for the past quarter-century. The US wants to achieve that by January 2021, when Trump completes his first term in office.
Although Kim won’t be going to New York next week, meetings there could prove critical in deciding whether a second Trump-Kim summit will take place any time soon.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has invited his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho for a meeting in New York, and Trump will be consulting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, fresh from his third summit with Kim this year. It was at that meeting in Pyongyang that the North Korean leader made his tantalizing offers to close key facilities of his weapons programs that have revived prospects for US-North Korea talks.
Yun, who spoke to reporters Friday at the United States Institute for Peace in Washington, said the US goal of achieving denuclearization in just two years is unrealistic, but the offer to close Nyongbyon, where the North has plutonium, uranium and nuclear reprocessing facilities, is significant and offers a way forward.
That’s a far cry from last September. After Trump’s thunderous speech, Yun’s first thought was on the need to avoid a war. The president vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if the US was forced to defend itself or its allies against the North’s nukes. “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime,” the president said.
His blunt talk triggered an extraordinary, almost surreal, exchange of insults. Kim issued a harshly worded statement from Pyongyang, dubbing the thin-skinned Trump a “mentally deranged US dotard.” A day later, the North’s top diplomat warned it could test explode a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.
Tensions have eased hugely since then, and cracks have emerged in the international consensus on pressuring North Korea economically to get it to disarm.
The US accuses Russia of allowing illicit oil sales to North Korea. Trump has also criticized China, which has fraternal ties with the North and is embroiled in a trade war with the US, for conducting more trade with its old ally. Sanctions could even become a sore point with South Korea. Moon is eager to restart economic cooperation with North Korea to cement improved relations on the divided peninsula.
All that will increase pressure on Washington to compromise with Pyongyang — providing the incentives Kim seeks, even if the weapons capabilities he’s amassed violate international law. He’s likely eying a declaration on formally ending the Korean War as a marker of reduced US “hostility” and sanctions relief.
That could prove politically unpalatable in Washington just as it looks for Kim to follow through on the denuclearization pledge he made in Singapore.
Frank Aum, a former senior Pentagon adviser on North Korea, warned tensions could spike again if the US does not see progress by year’s end, when the US would typically need to start planning large-scale military drills with South Korea that North Korea views as war preparations. Trump decided to cancel drills this summer as a concession to Kim.
“Things can flip pretty quickly,” Aum said. “We’ve seen it going from bad to good and it could fairly quickly go back to the bad again.”