Suspect in Bibi Aisha's mutilation goes free

The case of Bibi Aisha, the young girl who graced the cover of TIME Magazine after her nose and ears were cut off, has been dropped. The only arrested suspect, Aisha's father-in-law, was released in Afghanistan, according to government officials. Aisha has been living in the United States for the past two years following her dramatic recovery, so there is no one available to press charges against Haji Suleiman. The provincial attorney, Ghulam Farouq, maintained that the suspect was innocent since he did not actually cut the young girl. But Suleiman is far from innocent -- he was accused of holding a gun to 18-year-old Aisha while several other men mutilated and left her for dead. He then marched around the village with the young girl's nose in hand. Aisha's father, Mohammedzai, relayed his anger, saying:

"We don't know who released him. We don't know at all. It's either government weakness or our weakness. We don't have money to pay the government and we don't have someone in the government to support us."

Aisha won the hearts of readers around the world with her horrifying tale of survival. She was a servant, a child bride fleeing the brutal abuse of her in-laws who would make her sleep with the animals as if she was an animal herself.

Aisha's father feared what the Taliban would do if Aisha spoke out. But she ignored his advice to keep quiet:

"My father told me not to tell anyone the full truth, that I was given away, that I went to jail for two or three months, not to tell anyone anything. But I will tell them all these things because I am not such a person to lie. I will tell them because I think my story must be told."

Aisha quickly became the face of the Afghan woman's plight -- the United Nations estimates nearly 90 percent of women in Afghanistan suffer from domestic abuse. The haunting photograph of beautiful, but disfigured Aisha draped in a purple scarf, won the 2010 World Press Photo of the Year.

Her attackers may never be brought to justice, but Aisha continues to recover. She is currently studying English in New York City.

Nisa Yeh via Flickr Creative Commons


China's push to woo South Sudan

Wow, that was fast. Just days after South Sudan achieved independence, the Chinese government has already established a vocational training program for welders in Juba. From Chinese state media outlet Xinhua:

JUBA - China has started a welder training course to help South Sudanese master knowledge and techniques relevant to the petroleum industry in which the newly-born nation has a large potential.

A total of 30 trainees selected from about 800 applicants are under the vocational training, the first of its kind in South Sudan, and are expected to be backbone workers in the petroleum industry in the future.

In the wake of South Sudan's vote this February to break away from Sudan, China has been working aggressively with both countries to maintain access to their oil reserves, most notably through Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir's visit to Beijing in late June. Before the split, Sudan exported more than half of its daily oil output to China and was China's third-largest trading partner in Africa. Now, though South Sudan contains 75 percent of the two countries' combined oil reserves, it continues to rely on Sudan for the bulk of the processing and transportation infrastructure, including a crucial port on the Red Sea.

The establishment of a program to train welders suggests that China would like to reduce South Sudan's dependency on Sudanese infrastructure. It's a sensible goal. Tensions over oil revenues figure to be a major sticking point in Sudan-South Sudan relations; the countries have yet to establish a plan to divide revenues in an industry that generates 90 percent of the north's hard currency and 98 percent of the south's revenues. Meanwhile, the invasion of the border region of Abyei by forces loyal to Bashir has highlighted the threat of a major conflict between the two countries. There are certainly more stable countries from which to import your oil, but, with domestic demand at near-record levels, China may not have much choice.