An Afghan woman whose nose and ears were hacked off after she fled a forced, abusive marriage has spoken of her ongoing recovery.
Aesha Mohammadzai was mutilated by her Taliban husband and in-laws and left for dead three years ago.
Having passed out through pain and shock, Aesha came to on the side of a mountainside, choking on her own blood, and managed to walk to her village where her father took her to hospital.
Aesha Mohammadzai was mutilated after she fled a forced, abusive marriage
After the world heard of her ordeal, Aesha was interviewed in hospital and appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
Amid criticism about Aesha's safety and the graphic content of the image, Time’s managing editor Richard Stengel stressed his cover star: “Knows that she will become a symbol of the price Afghan women have had to pay for the repressive ideaology of the Taliban.”
Now half-way through reconstructive surgery to rebuild her face, she spoke exclusively to CNN about her recovery hopes for the future.
Aesha became 'a symbol of the price Afghan women have to pay for the repressive ideology of the Taliban' after her apperance on the cover of Time magazine
She said: “What happened, it’s part of me, part of my life and it’s all the time in my mind and with me.
“But I have to live and I have to love.”
Currently living with a host family in America, she is being treated by doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland.
As well as her nose, Aesha's ears were hacked off in the attack
At present, Aesha’s forehead is swollen with saline and her nose is slowly taking shape with gradual tissue transplants taken from other parts of her body.
In six months time, she hopes to have the nose she wants.
Of her appearance, she said: “At the beginning, I was very scared. I was scared to look at my face in the mirror…I was scared to think what will happen in the future to me. But now I’m not scared anymore.”
Aesha’s father-in-law, known only as Sulaiman, was reportedly freed because “there was no one in Afghanistan to press the case against him – because the victim is now in the United States – and that he did not cut off the girl’s nose himself.”
Provincial attorney Ghulam Farouq said: “If someone commits a crime, then nobody else should be punished or arrested. The crime was committed by his son, Quadratullah, and this innocent guy was imprisoned for 11 months.”
Police officials had said Sulaiman had confessed to taking part in the mutilation, but later insisted he was innocent.
Aesha with her host family in the United States
The Taliban were overthrown by the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It later regrouped as an insurgency movement.
A December 2009 survey conducted by the Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research (ACSOR) showed that only 6 percent of Afghans would prefer a return to Taliban governance.
According to the ACSOR poll, 70 percent of Afghans say that the Taliban is the biggest threat to their country, and 68 percent support the presence of the international Coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Afghan Shiite Muslim protesters shout during a demonstration in Kabul on April 15, 2009. About 300 women rights activists protested against a new controversial law passed by Parliament in March, but were soon outnumbered and chased away by over 1,000 men and women defending the law. The new law regulates marriage, divorce, and inheritance for the country's minority Shia religious population. Signed by the President, the law was yet to be published to officially become a law when it was criticized by rights groups.
Afghan Shiite counter protesters shout slogans in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, April 15, 2009. The group of some 1,000 male and female Afghans swarmed a demonstration by 300 women Wednesday protesting against a new conservative marriage law. Some counter protesters pelted the women with small stones as police struggled to keep the two groups apart. The banner reads "The private laws are according the bases of holy religion of Islam."
Afghan police officers stop the Shiite counter protesters in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, April 15, 2009.
An Afghan police officers pushes a counter protester during a demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, April 15, 2009. The group of some 1,000 male and female Afghans swarmed a demonstration by 300 women Wednesday protesting against a new conservative marriage law. Some counter protesters pelted the women with small stones as police struggled to keep the two groups apart.