TIME magazine commissioned me to create a portrait series of a diverse range of women in Afghanistan for a feature called “Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban” written by Aryn Baker which ran in August 9, 2010 issue.
Aisha was living in a shelter for women in Kabul when I met her. It was recommended by the Director of Women for Afghan Women where Aisha was sheltered that when photographing her I be sensitive to the stress she suffers due to her having been violently attacked. Aisha was held down and had her nose and ears cut off by her husband and family as punishment for trying to run away from her husband in southern Afghanistan and to teach other women a lesson.
Aisha, the social worker, my translator and I were in a non decript room. At a certain point I felt it was becoming a bit stressful for Aisha. I decided to put my camera down and spoke with her through my translater – women to women.
I spoke about not understanding how it must have felt to be pinned down and violated so brutally , thinking at the same time of the women who were pinned down by soldiers and brutally raped in The Democratic Republic of Congo who I had once photographed. I also stated what a beautiful women she was and that with surgery her external beauty would return. She was waiting for her visa for the USA. I asked her if we could work together to show her inner strength, her inner beauty, her power…the room felt light , as if she got what I was saying. She looked back at the camera and that’s when I took this photograph.
Aisha is now living in the U.S. undergoing a long process of reconstructive surgery and healing.