A Fresh Meadows non-governmental organization is working to bring to the United States an Afghan woman featured on the cover of TIME magazine this week who had her nose and ears cut off by the Taliban as punishment for escaping her husband and in-laws, who beat her regularly.
Women for Afghan Women, which just moved from College Point to Fresh Meadows, has been helping 18-year-old Bibi Aisha, the woman featured on TIME’s cover, since she arrived at its shelter in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2009.
Aisha was sold at age 10 by her father to a married Taliban member, who kept her in an animal stable until she was 12, when she got her first menstrual period. At that point, they were officially married and she was beaten regularly by her husband and his family. WAW noted on its website that six months before arriving at the Kabul center, Bibi Aisha was beaten so badly by her husband that she thought she was going to die.
She then ran away to her neighbor’s house, who took her to the police. She spent four months in a women’s prison in Kandahar and then returned to her husband, who left her to die in the mountains after cutting off her nose and ears. Aisha was found by U.S. forces, who kept her in a military clinic for two months until her wounds healed.
WAW said it has received an overwhelming outpouring of support for Bibi Aisha, and she is expected to soon come to the United States for reconstructive surgery sponsored by the Grossman Burn Foundation, a humanitarian organization in California.
“We have had several offers from doctors and medical professionals in the United States offer free travel to the United States, surgery and care for Aisha,” WAW wrote on its website. “There have also been Kabul-based doctors who have offered to do her surgery for free. The generous outpouring of offers of help has been moving for all of us, particularly for Bibi Aisha.”
TIME’s cover photo of Bibi Aisha, which was taken by South African photographer Jodi Bieber and shows a gaping hole where her nose was, has generated much discussion on a countless number of television shows and blogs. TIME’s managing editor, Richard Stengel, called the photo “powerful, shocking and disturbing” and said Aisha posed for it because she wants the world to “see the effect a Taliban resurgence would have on the women of Afghanistan, many of whom have flourished in the past few years.”
Stengel said he “thought long and hard” about publishing the photo, particularly out of concern for Bibi Aisha’s safety.
“She knows that she will become a symbol of the price Afghan women have had to pay for the repressive ideology of the Taliban,” Stengel wrote. “We also confirmed that she is in a secret location protected by armed guards and sponsored by the NGO Women for Afghan Women.”
The United Nations estimates that nearly 90 percent of Afghanistan’s women suffer from some sort of domestic abuse.
“Bibi Aisha is only one example of thousands of girls and women in Afghanistan and throughout the world who are treated this way,” said Grossman Burn Foundation Chairwoman Rebecca Gray Grossman. “Aisha is reminded of that enslavement every time she looks in the mirror.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson
©2010 Community News Group
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