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After Vicious Attack, Afghan Woman Rebounds with Support of US Family

Thu, 31 Jul 2014 21:03:25 +0000

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Bibi, the young Afghan woman whose nose and ears were cut off by her husband, is still healing inside and out but speaks English and calls the United States home.

Now known as Aesha and with a new nose, the once-shy girl who did not know what her future held lives with an Afghan-American family in a Maryland suburb.

For the last two-and-a-half years, the Arsalas – parents Mati and Jamila and their 16-year-old daughter, Miena – have called 22-year-old Aesha family.

Mati Arsala said Aesha had a special Pashto word for him that means "uncle."

"She call me 'Moma,'" he said. "Moma comes from the mother side, you know, which is [mother's] brother. … Sometime [she] call me Dad when she's in a good mood."

Like everyone around the world, the Arsalas had heard about the young Afghan girl, what she had been through and how she'd ended up on the cover of Time magazine.

When Aesha 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 she tried to run away, local Taliban ordered her husband to punish her by disfiguring her face. He severed her nose and ears, she said, while his brother held her down.

Left for dead, she said she tried to crawl 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.

"Four cowarded men, to hold her hand and cut her nose and ears. [It] took two years to put her back together," Mati Arsala said. "There wasn't any justice. Nobody has done anything. Hope I have the hand to do it."

In 2010, Aesha was photographed for a Time cover story, becoming an international symbol for women's rights in Afghanistan.

Aesha also traveled to the Grossman Burn Center in West Hills, California, to begin reconstructive surgery. She went through nine major surgeries to give her a new nose. The final journey of her surgery has taken place at the Walter Reed Medical Center. Her ears were also repaired.

Each time she awoke after surgery, the Arsalas were waiting to take her home.

"Yeah, Mati Uncle drive me [to] hospital all time. … Jamila help me all the time. Miena too," Aesha said. "Mati Uncle wash my hair."

The Arsalas said it was not an easy decision to take in Aesha, whose traumatic experience left her with a host of psychological issues.

"We tried to show her that we are her family and how a family functions," Jamila Arsala said. "I think it was the best thing what we did in our life for Aesha, that we took her. … She's now a part of our family."

They said they now wished for her to see her independence. The Arsalas have helped Aesha take night classes and have supported a burgeoning interest in making jewelry.

"I'd hope that she has a normal life," Mati Arsala said. "Because she's really sociable and she likes to dress up and go out, and I'd hope she can do that without feeling uncomfortable or anything. … My wish is that once, one day, I take her hand and walk her somewhere toward the other man, like any other human being."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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