The Continuing Saga of Aisha–and the Women of Afghanistan

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When she appeared on the cover of TIME in August 2010, Aisha Bibi became an immediate symbol of the plight of Afghanistan–and the rights of its women–if the Taliban returned to power. Her face had been mutilated–nose and ears chopped off–in what was apparently Taliban-approved retaliation for her attempts to leave an abusive arranged marriage. The story of her survival–and her long road to physical recovery–have riveted the Western world and the U.S. Last week, CNN reported on the first of six reconstructive surgeries she will be undergoing to restore her face. In contrast, in Afghanistan, Aisha is far from a celebrity and her case has faded from memory. Indeed, last year, the only man arrested and accused of the attack on her–her father-in-law–was released from jail, unpunished except for the brief incarceration. There was outrage in the U.S. and the West, as TIME’s Kabul bureau chief Aryn Baker wrote. But, in Aisha’s homeland, where the Taliban continue to make political and strategic inroads, the future of women’s rights, one of the few things to improve since the U.S. led war in 2001, is not bright.