An article published in The Guardian today revisited the famous photograph above by South African photographer Jodi Bieber of the 18-year-old Afghan woman Bibi Aisha whose husband brutally cut off her ears and nose as punishment for trying to leave him. It left a lasting impression the first time I saw it and affected me again today. It just proves how powerful a photograph can be and reminds you how fortunate we women are in the West.
The photographer met Aisha at the Women for Afghan Women shelter last year. She wasn't quite sure how Aisha would respond to a photographer given her psychological state and appearance. This is what she said about it:
"Before I start, I try to make a subject feel comfortable through small talk, and already I could see that Aisha was quite extraordinary. Then I began and it wasn't working so well, so I put the camera down and said: "Would it be possible to not think about what happened to you for a few minutes and just focus on your inner power and beauty?" So she did and I took the picture."
The photograph has become a powerful, haunting image that speaks out about violence against women, particularly the Taliban's violence towards women in Afghanistan and other countries which sadly still goes on every day. It appeared on the front cover of Time magazine in August last year and won the 2010 World Press Photo award. Although it's a very distressing photograph to look at, there's a power to it. While most people who suffer are portrayed as victims, this shows Aisha as a survivor. Aisha now lives in New York and is trying to rebuild her life. She has been in talks with a surgeon about facial reconstruction surgery and stands as an inspiration to victims of domestic violence. I really admire her strength and courage.
Here's an interesting interview with the photographer: