Mutilated Afghan Woman Now on U.S. Soil for Months-Long Surgery

Aisha's nose and ears were severed by her husband after she tried leaving him.

ByEnjoli Francis, Margaret Aro and Eric Noll
August 09, 2010, 5:58 AM

Aug. 9, 2010— -- Aisha, the young Afghan woman once just known as Bibi, whose nose and ears were cut off by her husband, is now with a host family in California.

Aisha arrived Friday evening at Los Angeles International airport to begin an eight-month-long process to reconstruct her face at the Grossman Burn Center in West Hills, Calif.

She also reunited Friday evening with Air Force Staff Sgt. Lindsay Clark, the on-duty medic when Aisha's father brought her to the U.S. military facility Forward Operating Base Ripley in Oruzgan province, Afghanistan, after she was attacked. They had not seen each other in eight months.

"It was really touching. I was so afraid she wasn't to going to recognize me but immediately she knew who I was. She saw me and she looked for a second and she said: 'Lindsay?' She didn't realize that I was there. She had kind of 'For real?' look on her face," said Clark who became Aisha's first and closest friend.

Also this weekend, the Taliban released a statement speaking out against this month's Time magazine cover image of Aisha. The cover story highlighted the plight of many Afghan women under Taliban rule.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan rejects this fabrication by the Americans, who are publishing these lies to divert attention of the people from their clear and disgraceful defeat," said a spokesman.

"In sacred Islamic law, cutting of human ears and noses whether the human is alive or dead is illegal and prohibited. Under Shariate law, if someone carries out this heinous act, the same thing will be done to the criminal who has perpetuated the act," the spokesman said.

Diane Sawyer of "World News" met Aisha during a trip to Afghanistan.

When Aisha was 12, she was given to a Talib who married her, abused her and forced her to sleep in the stable with animals, she said. After Aisha tried to run away, local Taliban ordered her husband to punish her by disfiguring her face. Her husband severed her nose and ears, she said, while his brother held her down.

Sawyer encountered Aisha, then 17, in January when she visited a secret shelter for battered women in Kabul. The secret women's shelter is one of a string of shelters and counseling centers that have helped about 1,500 Afghan women escape abuse from their husbands and in-laws.

Aisha's story was first reported by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon for the The Daily Beast in December 2009.

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Left for dead, she said she crawled to an uncle's house but he refused to help her. She then staggered to her grandfather's house and he called her father. Because the local Afghan hospital could not treat her wounds, her father took her to the nearby U.S. military facility Forward Operating Base Ripley.

Aisha 'Scared. ... Covered Up'

"She was very scared. She covered up," said Clark, the on-duty medic, in March.

Maj. Jeff Lewis, an Air Force surgeon, told ABC News in March that he was used to seeing war wounds but was appalled by the injuries to Aisha.

"It was barbaric and shocking to see this, that somebody had done this to this young girl. ... It was unlike anything I've ever seen," Lewis said. "I'm surprised that ... it still exists, this type of problem in the world."

Aisha recuperated at the U.S. base for more than two months. The U.S. military helped transport her to the secret shelter in Kabul, where she has remained until now.

"I am going to America," she said last week, dressed in vibrant pink for her last day in the country.

With a suitcase containing her most precious things -- her prayer rug, a pair of sparkly new shoes and brightly colored new clothes -- Aisha, 18, kissed, hugged and bid farewell to the women of the shelter.

She said Zubaida Hasan, a young woman also at the shelter, had told her the Grossman Burns Center was a good place to go. Seven years ago, Hasan made the same journey to California after she was horribly disfigured by scorching oil at the age of 9.

"When I first went, it was hard for me, too," Hasan said. "I was scared and then I made some friends over there. They are good people and there are Afghans too living there."

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