When Bangladeshi Rahman Mohammad Ataur came to Singapore in search of work, little did he expect that, he would end up with burns on more than 69 per cent of his body, with complete loss of hearing in his right ear and severe hearing loss in his left.
In 2016, during a job, he was pressured by his boss into cleaning an underground water tank that no one wanted to clean.
His boss told him, “don’t make excuses saying this is not safe, you say that this is not safe because you don’t want to do this”.
He was given a halogen lamp to work with and the moment he switched it on underground, there was a massive explosion, covering him in flames. The explosion was triggered by an accumulation of flammable gas, set off by the heat of the lamp.
Rahman said, “When my colleagues pulled me out, they couldn’t recognise me. The skin on my face was gone and I could see my bones. I thought I was going to die”.
Rahman then spent the next six months in hospital, being in a coma for three of them. He was first in the Intensive Care Unit, and then the high dependency ward. After being discharged at the end of 2016, Rahman still required facial reconstruction surgeries but his treatments stopped halfway because his employer refused to continue paying in July 2017.
It was reported that the skin and cartilage around Rahman’s ears were damaged causing his ears to be fixed to his scalp. He wears a scarf to cover his ears, and is unable to wear a hearing aid properly.
Rahman said that, “The burns were so severe that the doctor said it’s very difficult for me to get my original face back. I had to cover my face with a scarf and sunglasses every time I go out so that people are not afraid of me. The pain from the burns is just the surface, it is even more tiring to deal with people’s judgment.”
He also added, “Children look at me in fear, people stare and shun me, the MRT security will check my bag, and the police has also stopped me many times. But I am no terrorist, just a worker who has been severely burnt.”
An ongoing campaign at GIVE.Asia has raised S$15,282 for Rahman, exceeding the S$15,000 needed for the surgery to reconstruct and elevate Rahman’s ears.
Rahman’s story was shared on Facebook group Millennials of Singapore, and netizens were determined to find Rahman’s employer to seek justice for him.