'Never give up': Afghan teenager who had nose and ears cut off by abusive husband reveals new life and new face

Aesha Mohammadzai appeared on the cover of Time magazine and became an international symbol of female oppression in Afghanistan following her mutilation

John Hall
Tuesday 26 February 2013 17:48
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Aesha Mohammadzai on the front cover of Time in 2010; Aesha following successful reconstruction surgery
Aesha Mohammadzai on the front cover of Time in 2010; Aesha following successful reconstruction surgery

An Afghan teenager whose nose and ears were cut off as punishment for attempting to flee an abusive marriage has revealed her new nose following reconstructive surgery.

Aesha Mohammadzai appeared on the cover of Time magazine and became a poignant symbol of female oppression in Afghanistan following her attempted escape.

But three years on, following a move to America and extensive reconstructive surgery, Aesha has a new face and her new life.

Aesha was originally mutilated after running away from her husband who she says subjected her to daily physical and mental abuse.

She had been sold to her husband, a Taliban fighter, by her father as part of a debt settlement when she was aged just 12. She was then given over to his family who she says her abused her and forced her to sleep in an animal shed.

Aesha managed to escape the family but was quickly captured in a nearby mountain range. She says her husband then hacked off her nose and ears as punishment for running away, and she was left for dead in the mountains.

Aesha was still alive however, and managed to crawl to her grandfather’s house from where her father smuggled her to an American medical facility where she was looked after for 10 weeks.

Speaking to CNN, Aesha said: “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.”

Later in 2010, she was smuggled out of the country by the Grossman Burn Foundation, and was taken in by the New York Charity Women for Afghan Women, who supported her and helped pay for her education.

Shortly after her arrival in the US, Aesha appeared on the cover of Time magazine, with her shocking wounds causing international anger and raising global awareness of the plight of women in Afghanistan.

Aesha later underwent complicated reconstructive surgery which required her forehead to be ballooned using an inflatable silicone shell.

The balloon was gradually filled with fluid in order to expand her skin and provide surgeons with enough extra tissue to rebuild Aesha’s nose. Skin from her arm was also used to create an inner lining for the new nose.

In her first ever television interview, Aesha told ITV’s Daybreak programme that she is “happy” with her new appearance and wanted to share her story to spread hope.

She said: “I want to tell all women who are suffering abuse to be strong. Never give up and don’t lose hope.”

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