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Mutilated Afghan girl comes to L.A. for treatment

Grossman Burn Center reaches out to teenager featured on the cover of Time magazine after her nose was cut off by abusive husband.

August 09, 2010|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times

An Afghan girl featured on the Aug. 9 cover of Time magazine after her nose was cut off arrived in the Southland Friday for treatment by local doctors.

The 18-year-old, identified only as Bibi Aisha (Miss Aisha), told Time that her nose and ears were cut off by her abusive husband — with Taliban approval — to punish her for running away. The controversial photo appeared with the headline, "What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan."

Dr. Peter H. Grossman, co-director of the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks, said his wife, Rebecca, who heads the Calabasas-based Grossman Burn Foundation, saw Aisha on television and knew they could help her.

FOR THE RECORD: A story on the front of the LATExtra section Monday misstated where the Grossman Burn Center is based. It is in West Hills, not Sherman Oaks.
The foundation paid to bring Aisha to Los Angeles, found a host family for her to stay with and is funding her treatment, Grossman said. That could include a prosthetic nose or reconstruction of her nose and ears using bone, tissue and cartilage from the rest of her body, he said.

"What I'd love to be able to do with Aisha is to give her a permanent solution," said Grossman, who said he planned to meet with her in coming days.

Women for Afghan Women, a nonprofit group based in Fresh Meadows, N.Y., has been using Aisha's case to illustrate what is at stake for Afghan women if international forces leave the country. The group runs a shelter that cared for Aisha for nearly a year, according to a statement posted on their website by Executive Director Manizha Naderi.

"Bibi Aisha decided to put her damaged face before the world to show what ordeals, and worse, millions of women and girls in Afghanistan will suffer if the Taliban take over the country," Naderi wrote. "Bibi herself wants her suffering to have meaning beyond her personal pain. She has never been to school and may never have heard the term 'human rights,' but she wanted to reveal her wounds to the world because she fully understands what the Taliban mean for women."

Aisha had been given away by her Pashtun family in Oruzgan province at the age of 12 to pay a debt and married to a Taliban fighter, according to the Time article and Women for Afghan Women. She fled, but her husband tracked her down last year and cut off her nose, according to the article.

She was left for dead but made her way to the shelter in Kabul, where she stayed until Wednesday, when she boarded a plane to the U.S. to receive treatment at the Grossman Burn Center in West Hills.

Stacy Tilliss, executive director of the Grossman Burn Foundation, which is supporting Aisha's treatment, said Aisha arrived Thursday and was getting situated.

Naderi said in the statement that Aisha's arrival in the U.S. "will not be a purely joyful occasion."

"We worry about her sister, who was destined to the same hell that Bibi endured: being handed over as payment to another family," Naderi said. "We worry that Bibi's father has replaced the now-missing Bibi with another girl."

Aisha could not be reached for comment Friday.

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