Two years ago this month, Nafiah Ikram’s life changed forever when acid was viciously thrown in her face outside of her Elmont home.
Though she still faces physical and mental challenges, Ikram continues to tell her story in hopes that authorities will one day catch her attacker — and to help prevent an assault like this from happening to others.
“It’s very hard to live with, but I’m trying to make the best out of every single day,” Ikram said. “A lot of my freedoms have been taken away from me.”
The assault on Ikram took place on March 17, 2021, at around 8:15 p.m. in her Arlington Avenue driveway, when she and her mom returned home after shopping. Once her mother was inside the house, an unidentified man approached Ikram from behind and threw acid in her face, officials said.
The attacker was described as 6 feet 2 and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and gloves. He drove away in a 2013 to 2015 red Nissan Altima with fog lights, according to the Nassau County Police Department.
Just days after the two-year anniversary of the attack, Ikram stood in front of her home to address news reporters. She and her parents all sported the color red — which, at first, Ikram said wasn’t planned, but she believed it sent a message to her attacker that they are not afraid.
Ikram said her therapist suggested she wear red as a way to ease her fear of red cars, similar to the one her attacker drove away in. The young woman also reflected on the moment she came home from the hospital and saw remnants of the acid stained on her driveway.
Although her parents urged her to look away, Ikram said she had to see it in order to process what had happened.
“Ever since then, I’ve always had that drive, and even before when I was younger, to kind of just get over my fears,” Ikram said. “I’m trying to do the reverse psychology thing to try to get myself used to it.”
In the first year after the attack, Ikram said she went through several reconstructive surgeries to her eye, nose and esophagus. The next step is to have a procedure done to her nose to help her breathe better, she said.
She has lost nearly all her eyesight and it is unclear how much, if any, can be regained. Ikram described her vision as if she is looking underwater. Another corrective surgery to her eye could take place in the future as well, she said.
Ikram also receives therapy to manage her post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety as she lives in the aftermath of the incident.
As a nurse, Ikram’s mother, Sherina Mohamed, said she is her daughter’s “rock” and must remain strong for her.
“God moves mountains and does wonders, and we believe that she will heal,” Mohamed said. “We are not only protecting my daughter, but we are trying to protect other human beings from going through this torture that we are going through.”
In spite of her struggles, Ikram said she tries to celebrate her triumphs as she moves forward in life. She has continued her studies at Hofstra University and has participated in a few speaking engagements, both locally and outside of New York.
Recently, she spoke at Miss Pakistan USA’s first-ever Women’s Day Panel in Washington D.C., where she discussed the importance of self-love and embracing one’s inner beauty.
“You got to love yourself on the inside first,” Ikram said. “It doesn’t matter at the end of the day what I look like right now because as long as I’m able to still see the beauty within me, that’s all that matters.”
With the help of the FBI, Nassau County police officials recently announced they have increased the reward to $50,000 to anyone who comes forward with information that could lead to a conviction of this individual.
Legislator Carrié Solages organized the news conference outside of the Ikram family’s home to plead with community members to keep this case alive.
“We are asking the person who is responsible for this heinous act — please do the right thing and turn yourself in,” Solages said. “Someone knows something, and what is done in the darkness always comes to light. Help (Nafiah) get justice — help the Elmont community get justice.”