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Afghan woman whose nose, ears cut off travels to U.S.

By Atia Abawi, CNN
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Mutilated Afghan woman heads to U.S.
  • The Afghan woman whose ears and nose were cut off is heading to the U.S.
  • She's planning on reconstructive surgery in California
  • Some look to Bibi Aisha to help show the plight of women under the Taliban

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan wife whose ears and nose were cut off by her husband, is heading to the United States on Wednesday for reconstructive surgery.

Aisha made headlines and was on a recent cover of Time magazine, showing the plight of women in Afghanistan.

"When they cut off my nose and ears, I passed out," Aisha said, describing the attack. "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."

But she survived.

With the help of an American provincial reconstruction team in Oruzgan province and the organization Women for Afghan Women, she finally received the help and protection she needed.

And now she is on her way to the United States, where the Grossman Burn Foundation will provide her with reconstructive surgery and a new life.

Read a behind-the-scenes with Aisha then and now

Aisha says her mutilation was an act of Taliban justice for the crime of shaming her husband's family.

At 16, she was handed over to her husband's father and 10 brothers, who she claims were all members of the Taliban in Oruzgan.

"I spent two years with them and became a prisoner," she said.

Read more about Aisha's story

She eventually ran away but was caught by police in Kandahar. And although running away is not a crime, in places throughout Afghanistan, it is treated as one if you are a woman. Eventually her father-in-law found her and took her back to her abusive home.

She was taken to a Taliban court for dishonoring her husband's family and bringing them shame. The court ruled that her nose and ears must be cut off, an act carried out by her husband in the mountains of Oruzgan, where they left her to die.

After Aisha's story was exposed to the world through various news organizations, offers of help poured in.

But there are many more women still suffering.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 90 percent of Afghanistan's women face some sort of domestic abuse. This in a country where there are fewer than a dozen women's shelters providing sanctuary from the cruelty they face. And all of them are privately run.

"Bibi Aisha is only one example of thousands of girls and women in Afghanistan and throughout the world who are treated this way. Who suffer abuses like this -- like this and worse," Women for Afghan Women board member Esther Hyneman said.

In 2001, the situation of Afghan women and Taliban brutality received lots of attention. Now, organizations like Women for Afghan Women say, the international community is strangely silent on the issue.

And with the Afghan government's plans to negotiate with some of the Taliban -- supported by many in the international community -- many fear that it will be the women who will pay the price.

Hyneman says that not enough is being done to help the women in Afghanistan, and that feeds into the hands of the Taliban.

Aisha is reminded of that every time she looks in the mirror.

But at least now she will be going to the United States for a chance at a new life.

And just like the iconic picture of an Afghan girl on a 1985 National Geographic cover brought the plight of Afghan women under Soviet oppression to the world's attention, many hope Aisha's face can show the new plight under the Taliban.

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