Aesha Mohammadzai: Afghan girl mutilated by her Taliban husband has a new nose and life
Aesha Mohammadzai has made international headlines in 2010 when she appeared on the now-iconic cover of Time magazine with a gaping wound in the center of her face where a nose should be.
Aesha Mohammadzai’s tragic tale of mutilation and abuse is well known by now: her Taliban husband and his family chopped off her nose and ears to punish her for trying to escape the family compound in Afghanistan.
The girl, known also as Bibi Aisha, was left for dead in the mountains, but survived and was brought for treatment to an American military base. A charity organization eventually helped bring Aesha Mohammadzai to the US, where she was taken in by an Afghan family from Maryland, CNN reported.
Over the past year, the raven-haired, vivacious young woman has undergone a serious of painful surgeries and treatments that have set the stage for Aesha Mohammadzai getting a new nose.
“It was very difficult in the beginning, but then I got used to it,” Aesha Mohammadzai told CNN.
Now, 22-year-old Aesha Mohammadzai is only a few minor procedures away from her dream becoming a reality. This summer, she will have a new face, but she will still have many challenges ahead of her.
Back in Afghanistan, Aesha Mohammadazi was not allowed to attend school and as a teenager was forced into marriage by her father, serving as a peace offering to the family of her new husband to make up for her uncle’s transgressions.
In 2011, Aesha Mohammadzai arrived in the US unable to read or write in any language. While her adoptive family, the Arsalas, say that she is a bright girl, they admit that she can be impulsive and easily distracted, preferring to work on her line of jewelery or watch movies on her laptop rather than study her ABCs.
Aesha Mohammadzai has been living with Mati Arsala, his wife Jamila Rasouli-Arsala and their daughter since November 2012, nearly two years after she arrived in the US.
She told CNN that people in Maryland often laugh at her because of her nose, but she responds to questions about what happened to her with: “It’s none of your business.”
Her first few months in the US Aesha Mohammadzai had spent in California preparing for reconstructive surgery, which ended up being scrapped because she was deemed too emotionally volatile.
She then spent several months in New York at a group home for Afghan women, where she was offered therapy and English classes, before finally moving to Frederick, Maryland, to live with the Arsalas.
Her first surgery took place last June, making it her first step towards getting a new nose. Over the past 11 months, Aesha Mohammadzai had the skin on her forehead expanded to provide doctors with additional tissue for her new nose.
Surgeons at Walter Reed Medical Center, where she has been treated free of charge, also had to take skin, bone and cartilage grafts from various parts of her body in preparation for her reconstructive surgery.
To avoid the risk of contracting an infection, Aesha Mohammadzai has been staying indoors, which led her to stop going to her weekly English classes. These days, she stays up late at night watching Bollywood films and sleeps during the day.
In the coming months, Aesha Mohammadzai’s nose will be complete, at which point doctors will be able to move on to her mutilated ears.
Aesha Mohammadzai ‘s surrogate parents say that they want to give her more time to heal both physically and emotionally, but once her face is whole again, Aesha will have to move forward and forge her own path in her adoptive country.
As part of Aesha Mohammadzai ‘s life-changing treatment, her forehead has ballooned and dark, drooping flesh covered the space where her nose once was – before her husband sliced it off.
Doctors placed an inflatable silicone shell under the skin of her forehead and gradually filled it with fluid in order to expand her skin and provide them with extra tissue for her new nose.
They have also taken tissue from her forearm and transplanted it to her face to form the inner lining and lower part of the nose.
Aesha Mohammadzai ‘s wounds are healing, but she lives with the scars of an ordeal few could imagine. Speaking for the first time on television to ITV’s Daybreak in February, she told the story behind that Time photograph.
She said: “Every day I was abused by my husband and his family. Mentally and physically. Then one day it became unbearable so I ran away.
“They caught me and put me in jail for five months. When I came out the judge sent me back to my husband. That night they took me to the mountains.
“They tied my hands and my feet. They said my punishment was to cut my nose and ears. And then they started to do it.”
Aesha Mohammadzai, who has never attended school or celebrated her birthday, now lives in America. Helped out of Afghanistan by a charity, she now has a new family who care for her as one of their own.
She said she is “happy” with her new nose and wants her experience to tell a new story, this time one of hope.
She said: “I want to tell all women who are suffering abuse to be strong. Never give up and don’t lose hope.”
Aesha Mohammadzai’s story was first told in August 2010 by Time magazine, who published a harrowing cover photo of her – horrifying people around the world and symbolizing the oppression of Afghan women.
When she was 12, her father promised her in marriage to a Taliban fighter to pay a debt.
Aesha Mohammadzai was handed over to his family who abused her and forced her to sleep in the stable with the animals.
The UN estimates that nearly 90% of Afghanistan’s women suffer from some sort of domestic abuse.
But when Aesha Mohammadzai attempted to flee, she was caught and her nose and ears were hacked off by her husband as punishment.
“When they cut off my nose and ears, I passed out. In the middle of the night it felt like there was cold water in my nose.
“I opened my eyes and I couldn’t even see because of all the blood,” she told CNN reporter Atia Abawi.
Left for dead in the mountains, she crawled to her grandfather’s house and her father managed to get her to an American medical facility, where medics cared for her for ten weeks.
They then transported Aesha Mohammadzai to a secret shelter in Kabul and in August 2010, she was flown to the U.S. by the Grossman Burn Foundation to stay with a host family.
She was taken in by a charity in New York called Women for Afghan Women who supported her and helped pay for her education.
But Aesha Mohammadzai soon became unhappy and her behavior gave rise to concern. During one outburst during, she threw herself to the floor and slammed her head against the ground, grabbing at her hair and biting her fingers.
Her primary guardian figure at the center Esther Hyneman, who witnessed the tantrum said no one was able to prevent her from inflicting the injuries and they had to call 911 for help.
Nowadays, Aesha Mohammadzai still prefers watching Bollywood films rather than American TV.