In what has become one of the most recognizable photos of 2010, readers of Time magazine were placed face to face with violence against women in Afghanistan in the magazine’s July issue. The photo of the brave girl who is only known by her first name, Aisha, exposed the unbearable conditions she had continued to lived under, when her face was mutilated last year. Aisha’s story let Western audiences know that violence against women in Afghanistan is an issue of paramount importance, and one that cannot be hidden any longer. While the Taliban was technically dissolved in 2001, strongholds of Taliban resistance still exist and are in operation, as can be seen by the violent actions taken against Aisha and many other women like her.
While Aisha’s story was grim and heartbreaking, the tides turned this past week as she was honored with an award and the chance to have the constant reminders of her horror mended. Due to the widespread exposure and debate over her story, Aisha, highlighted in a previous post following the interview she gave for Time, was honored by the Grossman Burn Foundation with the Enduring Heart Award. She received the award from Maria Shriver in California where she also received a prosthetic nose and a chance to begin her life again without the daily reminder of her suffering. At 18 years old, she was being abused by her husband, a Taliban fighter and ran away. She was captured by her husband’s family and had her nose and ears cut off and was severely beaten.
Aisha’s new start is some of the most refreshing news out of Afghanistan this week after the death of Mohammad Omar, a governor in Kunduz province whose death marks Taliban violence in the normally more stable north of Afghanistan. At the same time, the fragile security situation cannot create an ultimatum between, as President Hamid Karzai speculated in the Time article, “[…] protecting the right of a girl to go to school or saving her life.” I think we are all thankful that Aisha’s horrifying past has a chance for a new beginning, but let’s not forget that Aisha’s situation was not unusual. The more girls that are educated and empowered, the less of a chance the Taliban stands. So let’s stand together for Aisha and Afghan women whose stories we don’t read in major publications, but who remind us of the work that remains unfinished.
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