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Chemical attacks on women are 'rejected men marking their territory'

The chemical attack in Clapham, south London on Wednesday evening, saw a 31-year-old woman and her young daughters targeted with 'an alkaline substance'.

Police at the scene in Lessar Avenue near Clapham Common, south London, where a woman and her two young children have been taken to hospital after a man threw a suspected corrosive substance on Wednesday evening. Three other members of the public were also taken to hospital with injuries thought to have been suffered as they came to the aid of the woman and her children. Picture date: Thursday February 1, 2024.
Police at the scene in Lessar Avenue near Clapham Common, south London, where a woman and her two young children were attacked with an alkaline substance. (PA)

Chemical attacks similar to the incident in Clapham are often committed by 'rejected' men 'marking their territory' and highlight the dangers faced by women, campaigners have said.

Police are searching for the man responsible for the attack in south London on Wednesday evening, where a 31-year-old woman and her daughters, aged eight and three, were targeted with what is believed to be an alkaline substance. The attacker, who had travelled from Newcastle earlier on Wednesday, escaped on foot after crashing his car into a stationary vehicle.

The man police are searching for in connection to the attack was convicted of a sexual offence in 2018. Police have urged people to avoid and report any sightings of 35-year-old Abdul Ezedi, who is from the Newcastle area and is said to have “significant injuries to the right side of his face”.

Nimco Ali, a feminist activist, told Yahoo News UK that 'horrific' acid attacks can be related to scorned men having their ego damaged. She said: "In domestic violence cases or cases where women are attacked with acids, it is because these men feel rejected, so it's their ego, so rather than just murdering women, they're basically marking their territory.So the whole point is that whole thing of you end up like, not just like harming the person but physically scarring them."

Handout CCTV image dated 31/01/24 issued by the Metropolitan Police of Abdul Ezedi, the suspect in the Clapham alkaline substance attack. (PA)
Handout CCTV image dated 31/01/24 issued by the Metropolitan Police of Abdul Ezedi, the suspect in the Clapham alkaline substance attack. (PA)

ActionAid UK said that acid attacks are in response to ‘harmful patriarchal norms” and are linked to 'a sense of male entitlement', adding that society needs to root out the causes of violence. A spokesperson told Yahoo: “The horrific attack in south London yesterday is a reminder that we need to address the root cause of violence against women and girls. We must consider how we can change social norms that permit men to assert power over women, the same norms that place value on women and girls based on their appearance.

“Tackling the patriarchy means ending all forms of violence against women and girls, for good.”

Superintendent Gabriel Cameron reading a statement to the media on Lesser Avenue, near Clapham Common, south London, following the alkaline attack. (PA)
Superintendent Gabriel Cameron reading a statement to the media on Lesser Avenue, near Clapham Common, south London, following the alkaline attack. (PA)

It is understood Ezedi, who is believed to be from Afghanistan, was convicted of a sexual offence in 2018 and given a suspended sentence at Newcastle Crown Court. The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed he was sentenced on January 9 of that year after pleading guilty to one charge of sexual assault and one of exposure. Ezedi was put on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years.

He was granted asylum after two failed attempts, having reportedly travelled to the UK on a lorry in 2016, it is believed. Four members of the public were also injured in the Clapham attack after they tried to intervene whilst police were on their way to the scene on Lessar Avenue, south London. Five police officers also suffered minor injuries.

Superintendent Gabriel Cameron, a senior officer in Lambeth, said it "may be some time before hospital staff are able to say how serious (the life-changing injuries) might be".

The UK banned sales of acids to under-18s following an increase in attacks in 2017, and the Offensive Weapons Act 2019 made it illegal to carry a corrosive substance in a public place without good reason.

Last year, Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), a UK-based charity, found that the number of chemical attacks had risen dramatically. Their Freedom of Information request showed that attacks increased by 69% in 2022 when compared to the year before, with a total of 710 attacks.

Of that figure, 339 victims were women, and 317 were men; in 48 cases, the gender of the victims was unknown. The highest number of incidents occurred in Northumbria, with 183 attacks that year, followed by London and Merseyside.

ASTI added that the number of total incidents could be significantly higher as some police forces did not respond to their FOI.