She was disfigured and left for dead in Afghanistan by her husband and in-laws ten years ago. Soon Aesha Mohammadzai will have a new face, thanks to a reconstructive medical procedures on her nose and ears but the emotional scars are still far from healed.
We would not normally do this story on our website but the story of Aesha is so profoundly moving, serving as both a warning to women around the world and a beacon of hope for a better future. She is now a symbol of oppressed women everywhere who have stood up for their rights, suffered the consequences, but persevered to the end.
The story begins ten years ago in a small village in Afghanistan. Aesha was a young bride, given away by her father in an arranged wedding ceremony blessed by the hardline Taliban. You know who they are — the ones making women wear veils, forbidding them a school education, and shackling them emotionally like slaves.
Aesha had enough of it in a short while and ran away from home. She was caught and the justice was swift and severe from the Taliban who controlled the region. Her own husband cut off her nose and ears in a brutal attack at night while his family watched approvingly after a Taliban judge issued his hasty verdict on her crime.
This is not standard punishment in her village for defiance of a husband, but the tribal commander who supervised her husband’s punishment hoped that it would serve as a warning to other women there. After the attack she was left for dead and abandoned, but she managed to crawl several miles to her father’s house, who arranged for her treatment. Aesha was covered in blood on the verge of death.
She recently told the US media, “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.” You can accounting of her ordeal here.
Aesha’s injuries were attended to by US medical staff at an army hospital in Afghanistan. When she was well enough for discharge, her father hid her in a women’s shelter for several more years. Eventually she made her way to the United States to start a new life which prompted a famous Time Magazine cover and article which explored the plight of Afghan women. You can read the story here.
Two years ago she was taken in by a New York-based organization for the protection of Afghan women. They continued her medical recovery and more importantly, provided psychological counseling. The doctor say she is vastly improved, but still deeply scarred and he worries for her future ability to copy in society.
Soon Miss Mohammadzai will undergo plastic surgery to reconstruct her face. The main concern is her nose which could not be hidden like her ears which were covered by her flowing hairstyle. You can see in the pictures that she looks marvelous again with a temporary prosthetic nose, although there is a slight line that defines where her nose was cutoff. Still, it will be a vast improvement comparing the before and after photos if this is any indication. Aesha is a stunning women once again, and for that we can all be proud and inspired by her ability to survive such a perilous journey.