An Afghan woman whose nose was cut off by her husband under the Taliban's authoritarian rule was honored this weekend at an event in California, where she unveiled her new prosthetic nose for the first time.
With a broad smile, Ayesha received the Enduring Heart award at a benefit for the Grossman Burn Foundation, the Los Angeles area organization that provided her facial reconstruction.
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"This is the first Enduring Heart award given to a woman whose heart endures and who shows us all what it means to have love and to be the enduring heart," said California first lady Maria Shriver as the award was placed around Ayesha's neck.
"Thank you so much," Ayesha said to the crowd in English.
At the benefit, Ayesha also met former first lady Laura Bush, whose work has focused on the plight of Afghan women.
Ayesha came to the United States in August to undergo eight months of reconstructive procedures. She is living with host families in California and is accompanied by aides who are fluent in her language, Farsi. Ayesha receives round-the-clock care and regular counseling, and she loves listening to Afghan music on YouTube and making necklaces out of beads for her new families.
The long process of reconstructive surgery continues, but this month, Ayesha was fitted with a special prosthesis, which she can apply herself every day with a special skin adhesive. Thanks to the Hollywood-style effects, Ayesha can again face the world without drawing stares.
Village Elders Order Ayesha to be Disfigured
Ayesha, who was once known simply as "Bibi," was married to a man in the Taliban when she was 12 years old.
After enduring years of abuse, including being forced to sleep in the stables with animals, Ayesha tried to run away but was caught. The village men handed down her sentence, and Ayesha's husband sliced off her nose and ears while his brother held her down.
Left for dead, she managed to crawl to her uncle's house, but he refused to help her. Ayesha kept on until a relative finally took her to a hospital run by an American military medical team. The hospital cared for her for more than two months, ensured her safety, and gave her something she had not received before -- kindness.
Ayesha's Story Highlights Widespread Abuse of Afghan Women
ABC's Diane Sawyer met Ayesha, then 17, during a trip to Afghanistan in January. Sawyer was visiting a secret shelter for battered women in Kabul, one of several shelters and counseling centers that have helped about 1,500 Afghan women escape from abusive husbands and in-laws.
Ayesha's story grabbed the world's attention when her disfigured face was featured on the cover of Time Magazine.