March 18th, 2010
07:41 AM ET

'Shaming' her in-laws costs 19 year old her nose, ears

"When they cut off my nose and ears, I passed out," 19-year-old Bibi Aisha of Afghanistan says with chilling candor.

Her beauty is still stunning and her confidence inspiring. It takes a moment for the barbaric act committed against her to register in your mind and sight.

Wearing her patterned scarf and with roughly painted nails she shares her story.

"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," she remembers.

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

This story began when Aisha was just 8 years old.

Her father had promised her hand in marriage, along with that of her baby sister's, to another family in a practice called "baad."

"Baad" in Pashtunwali, the law of the Pashtuns, is a way to settle a dispute between rival families.

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 province. Aisha didn't even meet her husband because he was off fighting in Pakistan.

"I spent two years with them and became a prisoner," she says. (Watch more of the interview with Aisha)

Tortured and abused, she couldn't take it any longer and decided to run away. Two female neighbors promising to help took her to Kandahar province.

But this was just another act of deception.

When they arrived to Kandahar her female companions tried to sell Aisha to another man.

All three women were stopped by the police and imprisoned. Aisha was locked up because she was a runaway. And although running away is not a crime, in places throughout Afghanistan it is treated as one if you are a woman.

A three-year sentence was reduced to five months when President Hamid Karzai pardoned Aisha. But eventually her father-in-law found her and took her back home.

That was the first time she met her husband. He came home from Pakistan to take her to Taliban court for dishonoring his 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.

But she survived.

And with the help of an American Provincial Reconstruction Team in Oruzgan and the organization Women for Afghan Women (WAW), she is finally getting the help and protection she needs.

Offers have been pouring in to help Aisha, but there are many more women suffering in silence.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 90 percent of Afghanistan's women suffer from some sort of domestic abuse. This in a country where there are only about eight women's shelters to provide sanctuary from the cruelty they face. And all of the eight 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," says board member for WAW, Esther Hyneman.

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

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

"When you have ... 50 percent of a population on their knees, it's very easy for extremists, tyrants to take over a country," she adds. "They have a ready-made enslaved population."

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

But there still times she can laugh. And at that moment you see her teenage spirit escaping a body that has seen a lifetime of injustice.

- This story is part of CNN's Impact Your World project.

soundoff (307 Responses)
  1. glynnis

    this story is sickening, but a testament to what life is like for many women in afghanistan. i wish bibi refuge in america, and whatever reconstructive surgery she needs. mutilation to women's bodies happens all over the world... and while i don't agree with the wars we are entangled in if we are able to help women like bibi it will be good to hear about it. please update us on her story.

    March 20, 2010 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Adam

    My name is Adam and i am a 43 year old Afghan living in the United States. I am also a Muslim and a Pashtun. I find it so weird that when i was in Afghanistan from 1966 to 1987, the society i lived in had advanced human rights and facilities. I don't count these inhumane disgraces to Afghans and simple humanity, as Muslims.

    Afghans are not as backward as you may have read above...

    March 20, 2010 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  3. NK

    They should hand over the business of governing the country to women not men. Women will never have justice as long as the men have the power. The world will be a much better place if women are to rule.

    March 20, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  4. OldGirl

    Darkness. Awful darkness. What can penetrate such incredible cruelty and ignorance?
    How can you teach people like this love and mercy?
    Horrible. Horrible. Horrible.

    March 19, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rob

    To those of you who claim this is not religious as such, you need to learn the type of Islam practiced by these men. It was created in hatred of British, Indian and western culture. The clerics are trained for a maximum of 3 years to recite verses that they can not read for themselves, and the implementors of Sharia are not educated. This is merely one type of attrocity committed by these men. While I was there, one insurgent (I prefer not to use the term Taliban because it literally means "student of the Quran" and thus it infers we are waging war against the Quran) went through after a medical assistance visit gave all of a village's children a polio vaccine, and cut off all of the childrens' arms. The Deoband Muslims detest all things not of the Quran, which they can not read; all things Western because we are clearly the infidels; and distrust all other forms of Islam which they believe have [wrongfully] made too many concessions to an evolving world.

    March 19, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jim

    Horrible thing to happen. We are trying to bring these people democracy?
    Now I hear W's old friend King Abdullah will not stop the execution of a Lebanese guy for sorcery! He was caught predicting the future on TV!

    March 19, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lauren

    This is awful! To want to be free from enslavement and then have your HUSBAND do such a cruel thing is monstorous.

    March 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jane Collins

    Disgusting. They are animals. No...worse than animals, because no other species would torture its own like this. I despise them all. Muslim extremists and fanatics believe completely that women should be treated as slaves and tortured and murdered at will. They are monsters.

    March 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Abdulla

    totally against our religion (islam)... brutal and baberic act. they sould get the same punishment as in islam ( Qisas).

    March 19, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. James -- Atlanta

    This is as barbaric as it gets!! This has been going on forever and it is traggic. Will there ever be a time of normal living after the fighting is over???

    March 19, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ajay

    Poor girl.. I feel so sorry for her. as the story correctly points out, there are thousands like that. That country needs to be saved. Plight of people living in those countries needs to be brought into lime light. We must fight this evil ..together...

    March 19, 2010 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
  12. Sandugash Zilgadeshgova

    I'm curious what is the punishment for men who wanted to have another wives?Isn't that lust for another person and that is unfaithful?and every religion condemned infidelity??Will ear and nose cutting be part of the punishments???

    March 19, 2010 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Janis F. Götz

    My heart bleeds for the various women whom suffer under cruelties of this cult like behavior. The year is 2010 and yet in many places around the world, women are constant victims of acts of inhumanity at the hands of their supposed to be loved ones. When will this madness come to an end??? How long? and how many more women and young girls will have to suffer the horrors of domestic violence. This behavior and many like it is extremely barbaric and disgusting. It always amazes me how a men can not bring forth life, yet seemingly they abuse and destroy the only thing which can give life... Women

    March 19, 2010 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  14. Ahsan Godil

    This is Injustice.

    March 19, 2010 at 3:13 am | Report abuse |
  15. freakquency

    this is one of the reasons all Taliban should be hunt down and killed. these people have established their own barbaric justice system. they enslave, oppress and torture just to preserve their own interest.
    It's enraging to see the muslim world not speaking against everything that is tainting Islam. everything people do, that is violent and associated to Islam has nothing to do with the religion.

    March 19, 2010 at 3:06 am | Report abuse |
  16. Sean Prosser

    The court ruled that her nose and ears must be cut off.

    How can we help her? Seriously.

    March 19, 2010 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  17. Zameen Zahari

    I note a lot of the comments blames this on Islam. I am a Muslim and I am 100% certain that no such punishment is prescribed by the religion be it by way of Koran of Islamic laws/ways. Barbaric treatment like this can only be the work of madmens who are seriously misguided in their interpretation of the religion. I personally believe it has to do with tribal Pashtun ways which has no connection to Islam. Before you blame everything on Islam, do your research first or get a passport and explore the world beyound your county.

    March 19, 2010 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  18. Daniel

    It never ceases to amaze me just how far the right-wing media will go in order to stir up more right-wing mob mentality among the public.Now they're exploiting this tragedy to blame it on the Taliban although it goes on in so-called "friendly" Arab countries,too,like Jordan and Saudi Arabia,except nobody wants to "offend" the Elitists who rule them.

    March 19, 2010 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  19. Ally

    This is a global issue that needs to be treated and fought as such.

    March 19, 2010 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  20. Ally

    In addition, how are the daily news reports in the U.S. of boyfriends who kill their girlfriends and husbands who kill their wives any different from a story like this? There are abusive, misogynistic men all over the world–in every country, regardless of the country's religion or economic status.

    March 19, 2010 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  21. Ally

    This crime is obviously evil and heinous, but I'd like those who are treating this issue with an utter lack of cultural objectivism to remember that less than 200 years ago, Christians in this country were murdering young girls for being "witches". Evil actions can be perpetrated by any group if they are ignorant enough, including people in the U.S.

    March 19, 2010 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  22. Myrtle

    My heart goes out to all the girls and women who go through such horrible dispicable torture around the world. The "crime" was in "shaming" her in-laws?? Her in-laws should be ashamed of themselves for acting like demons!!! The entire court system and everyone in it should be hung on gallows for allowing, no, actually court-ordering this, and often much worse. I hold no hate in my heart for anyone, but bullies MUST be stopped! Why? Because insane people are incapable of stopping themselves.

    March 19, 2010 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  23. Max

    Barbaric acts like this are the reason why most of the US and Europe hate Muslims and Arabs in general. These sick animals mutilated that beautiful girl. They should be all bloody shot to hell.

    March 19, 2010 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  24. Luke

    I am not impressed with all these academic comments made here. Have any of you been to Afghanistan? or even Iraq? I have been to Iraq and spent 13 months among the people there. I have friends who have been to both. This has nothing to do with Sociology classes and academics. This comes down between basic right and wrong on the primal level, and it doesn't matter what religon you are cutting off some young girl's nose ,because you were raised by savages ,doesn't make it right. Plain and simple yes it is right to judge these people because they are no different than us ,they are human. The babarians who preptuated this act are brainwashed and need to be imprisoned or killed for their crime. Let's stop theorizing about right and wrong and then excusing it with academic hogwash backed by some degree. Let's live in the reality ,which is this: if this happened in your neighborhood would you allow it? I am going to go with a no on that one and you wouldn't excuse because that's how you think they are.

    March 19, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  25. felix sabiniano

    its so sad to see some people can be so passive about the situation. no matter what they say, may it be part of their culture or not, this is inhumane. we just dont accept them and turn our cold shoulder since we are in a more democratic society. we need to care. we need to get involve as human being. this doesnt know any religion, race or culture and tradition. human is human which ever angle you look at it. i feel sad that some even commented about letting it happen like they dont care.

    March 19, 2010 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  26. Lisa

    KF, this girl is an animal? 90% of women are abused there and we should just pray and leave it at that? Is that the sort of thing Jesus would do? The extreme horror of what has been done to women there means we should abandon them? I mean really?

    March 19, 2010 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  27. Xiaojun

    What happened to this girl is horrible. On the other hand, people or society makes judgement based on their own value system. In eyes of some people or culture, it is absolutely horrible to have casual sex or comit adultery. Maybe we should try to focus on helping one individual at a time than trying to change a thousand years old culture overnight.

    March 18, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  28. mahmoudaky

    just to clear some issues ALLAH, Islam and Quran has no orders to kill of any sort, however like any holy book it can be interpreted in a wrong way to affect and control ignorant minds, islam is from peace, and a woman has to agree for the man she wants, and can't be pressured into marriage, and that is how it is mentioned and ordered in the Quran.

    March 18, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  29. alexontherocks

    Taliban 'Court'? I hope they all die in cold blood!

    March 18, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Justice for all

    Islamic extremists are nothing but gangster thugs. They live a life of delusion through a fairy tale religion. Please stop calling the Muslim gangsters animals–it's insulting to animals.

    March 18, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  31. alexontherocks

    Who are they? those from Taliban? Are they animals? No, they are even worse than animals.. no comments. Those crimes committed to innocent women and girls, the monsters will pay for them.. I bet most of them can't even read. Lack of education, extreme poverty leads to degradation!

    March 18, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Rich

    The only way known to overcome the Brutality and the Ignorance that caused this atrocious abuse is by promoting education of the next generation. Force, especially outside force, does not work. Promote education by supporting Greg Mortenson's work with the Central Asian Institute – see or read his books, "3 Cups of Tea" & "Stones to Schools". Now required reading by our military officers sent to Afghanistan. Thanks.

    March 18, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Norman

    For those who point out the similarities between radical Christianity and radical Islam, please take note that the examples you are citing happened some 200-400 years ago. It is not unusual to have religion reflect some of the social mores of the times. The reality, then, is that social conditions in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan are a few hundred years behind the times. Of course, one could bring up the policies of the Catholic clergy in the sexual abuse cases as a more recent though, perhaps, less direct comparison and claim that the religious extremists of Islam are only 30 years behind the times.

    March 18, 2010 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  34. ib

    I am also a muslim. This is really a barbaric act. Talibans are simply using Islam as their excuse! No where in Islam its so hard for muslim sisters! Everyone should understand if someone says muslim doesnt mean that islam belongs them instead its GOD's religion which is for everyone in the world! Its to blame on human to create all these mess which is going around the world. I wish there should be an end all these nonesenses.

    March 18, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  35. A Sociologist

    To Rory: if that is what you learned in your Sociology 101 class, I would recommend you to re-take it. There is a difference between respecting cultures and ignoring human rights. I seriously doubt a sociologist taught you that acts like the ones described in this article should be protected or let be...

    March 18, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  36. rick

    To Gerardo Flores-Lima – AMEN. Where and HOW can I help?

    March 18, 2010 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Little Johnny Put Put

    Welcome to the one of the worst faces of World War III. I sometimes
    wonder what happens when and if, finally, a person who did something
    like this wakes up from his barbarian, uneducated state and for
    the first time comprehends just what he had really done in disfiguring
    another human being for life?

    What then? How then does that person survive his own disfiguring?

    March 18, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  38. June

    To all that are saying this is their 'culture' or are blaming 'Islam' or 'Muslims' you are so wrong and so ignorant. This is not Islam or Muslims, this is a sect of extremists that are doing this. No where in the Muslim faith will you find things like this, only people who have misinterpreted their holy books. This is something that is reviled in most of their culture.

    When this girl was first mutilated, it was Muslims who first came to her aid. It was Muslims that saved her life and helped her. There are Muslims still involved in helping her. THEY are the norm, that is the culture, not the monsters who did this.

    March 18, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  39. Ehow

    This is disgusting. She did not shame anyone they shamed themselves. How can ANYONE say this is okay?

    You are beautiful Aisha. More beautiful than you will ever know. MY heart goes out to you. I believe that though the God has HIS Hand on you.

    March 18, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Robert

    There is no god.

    We don't need god to tell us to treat others decently.

    Using god as an excuse for brutality is evel. And yes, you csn have evil with out god.

    Just as you can have goodness and peace with out god.

    Until people accept the Truth the brutality in the name of religion will never end.

    March 18, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  41. The Cat

    Get rid of the Taliban, 50% of the world's problem is solved. There is not place for Taliban in 21st century living! I say off with the Taliban's head!

    March 18, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Kalpesh Oza

    Brainless idiots that's why there is a mess which taking ages to clean up

    March 18, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Joel Michaud

    There are crazies everywhere. It's when the craziness goes mainstream that an ethnic society defines itself in a bad, bad way. Please, could an afghan reassure us that your society is not totally barbaric!

    March 18, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Yuri

    Thank you for reporting. What is wrong with journalism that we do not hear these stories?

    March 18, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  45. Jim Harris

    Ah, religion.

    God love it.

    (pun intended)

    March 18, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  46. jill

    So sad that this goes on and the people who do this think they are justified in doing it. I wish her well and wonder when america is going to wake up to what is going on with our freedom and moraliity??

    March 18, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  47. Muslim Response

    As a Muslim Scholar, I would like to state clearly that this is not an Islamic practice and in fact marrying someone against their will is against Islamic Law and would be considered and invalid marriage. Having said that, I would like to address all the people who have used this unfortunate and tragic incident as a springboard to rally against Islam and justify the 'war on terror' which has butchered hundreds of thousands of non combative innocent Muslims. There are many countries around the world of various faiths that still have primitive, barbaric practices happening every day. Afghanistan is not unique in this regard and if anything a continued war only further weakens society and allows for a framework of intellectual stagnation. Knowledge is power and many people do things that are horrific simply because they do not know better and need to be taught. And by 'taught' I mean taught with patience, kindness, empathy .... taught by example. Not taught at the end of a bomb or bullet. An example of this can be found in Christian Africa where it is a popular idea that AIDS will be cured if one has intercourse with a virgin. This backwards barbaric idea has lead to the brutal rape of infant baby girls. Should Africa be warred against as well? Education is key for long term success.

    March 18, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  48. James -- Atlanta

    This is horrible,sickening,barbaric. Why aren't the people of Afghanistan revolting??

    March 18, 2010 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  49. stephanie

    I pray for all the women and children who suffer so much and never really have a chance at life,how do the mothers raise their sons to do this? we need to step up and fight these animals,because thats what they are,bring them to justice treat them the same ashamed that they call themselves men. cowards,cowards,cowards.

    March 18, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  50. Erwin

    Here in The Netherlands our government tripped over extending the Afghan mission of our troops in Oruzgan. Unfortunately, we did not extend this mission because the social-democratic party wanted to keep their promise to their voters (on the eve of new communal elections) to pull out by mid-2010.
    Afghanistan today is where we were in the Middle Ages. It is naive to think the West can bring democracy to a culture that is not ready for it because it never went through the process of industrialisation, there is no separation of church and state and there is no nation only tribes. However, we cannot stand aside and watch. We cannot leave the vulnerable to the mercy of those barbarians.
    I'm ashamed of my own government and I support all international troops with their good job.

    March 18, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  51. Karen

    I respect other religions, but am losing patience with the Muslim community that, by their silence, condones any action taken by another Muslim. Muslims believe that men have the God-given right to treat women like garbage. Where, oh where is the antidote for such widespread wrong-thinking?

    March 18, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  52. Neal

    This is the type of crime that happen because of a bunch of religious nuts believe in some crazy fairytale...sad

    March 18, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  53. Ozan

    Ahhhhhhh. Poor girl. This has nothing to do with religion, nor does it have anything to do with geography. This is ignorance at it's pinnacle. But I know and fear there are worse. How can people help????

    March 18, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  54. Elisse Fernandez

    How gravely unjust that men and women all over the world so often fail to raise their sons to be good, strong, and decent men. This young women has my sympathy, as do the many in similarly dreadful situations.

    March 18, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  55. Gerardo Flores-Lima

    Dear CNN,

    I´m a Plastic and Recosntructive surgeon from El Salvador Central America trained in Brazil, Argentina and USA. I will be so happy to help Bibi in oreder to reconstruct nose and ears. Please le me know.

    March 18, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  56. Kate

    We have so many plastic surgeons in this country..someone should step up to the plate and help this poor kid..

    March 18, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  57. leander

    its funny that after readin this article we are filled with anger and fustration, and the immediate impulse is to condemn the islamic states. but you would be alarmed to kno the amount of so called " INHUMAN ACTS" carried out and practised in our own very civilised and free democratic countries.practises like social divisions and racial discrimination which is not short of the term "INHUMAN" these are still predominant in the immediate society we live in and this happens under our nose and we turn away and point a finger at others.lets get our act straight before we set out to correct others.

    March 18, 2010 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  58. pixie

    "a picture is worth a thousand words". it is interesting to read the comments. So many of you are now dad would be 100 this year but he is gone and used to mention man's inhumanity to man and in this case to women.....this sad picture is only a capsule of the stores. Even in this downturn we are all so rich to have internet access and our lives. I hope a surgeon somewhere can help, the nose is really hard to fix. The whole problem of women's place in the world even harder to fix. In the west it has been a hard struggle. we hold up half the sky maybe the women in the richer countries can pull the other women up from the dust....saddens me as we were just getting schools there so they could legally learn to read.

    March 18, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  59. Lyn

    This action is totally inhuman , unethical. I got frightened when seeing her picture. Poor the girl, she is a pretty lady :

    March 18, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  60. Yumil

    How can anybody do something like this 🙁

    March 18, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  61. j.dite

    horrible, horrible so called culture

    March 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  62. Daniel

    The same thing goes on throughout the Middle East,even in these so-called "friendly" countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia. But nobody talks about it since they don't want to "offend" the Islam Elitists.

    March 18, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  63. Jenny

    I wish her strength and happiness. She reminds me of how important it is to stand up for myself – if I can't do it, how will these women living in oppression be able to? I hope they get the help they need!

    March 18, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  64. Mairead

    This has NOTHING to do with Islam. This is the product of evil psychopaths masquerading as Muslims. The only thing that will stop them is execution for their crimes.

    Read the Hadith. Muhammad (sawa) (no, I'm not a Muslim) was an exceptionally gentle and enlightened man for his time and place who *expressly* forbade cruelty to humans and non-humans alike. At a time when Christian and Jewish women were all but chattel slaves, Islam provided that women kept their own wealth, had equal marriage and divorce rights, and equal access to the law.

    That poor young woman. I wish there were a collection to fee a top c-f plastic surgeon.

    March 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  65. Melanie

    Just awful. The Afghan violence depicted in Khaled Hosseini's novels was unflinching brutal. This young woman is evidence that such a level of evil does exist in our world. May she live out the rest of her life with peace and dignity.

    March 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  66. Dan Lafayette,IN

    If the Taliban is not a terrorist group then I do not know what a terrorist is! There should be world wide condemnation against the Taliban and any others who would treat their women in this manner! And all nations should support NATO and the coalition in there fight against these animals!

    March 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
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