An Afghan girl whose love of painting won the hearts of U.S. doctors who fitted her with a prosthetic arm returned to the United States Thursday, after the group that sponsored her first visit said it learned her newfound celebrity made her a subject of death threats at home.
© — Associated Press file photo
Afghan war victim Shah Bibi Tarakhail, 7, uses her new prosthetic arm to paint at Galerie Michael in Beverly Hills, Calif., in April.
Shah Bibi Tarakhail, 7, arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on the last leg of a journey from Kabul.
She lost her right arm last year when she picked up a grenade following a firefight between U.S. and Taliban forces in her village near the Pakistan border. The explosion, which killed her brother, also destroyed her right eye.
She has been granted a six-month visa, but Amel Najjar, executive director of the non-profit Children of War Foundation, said her group is looking into permanent residency status for her, perhaps as a political refugee.
Najjar said all the attention has made the girl a target of insurgents in Afghanistan, who railed against her exposure to Western culture.
Her father told the group that he and his daughter had been in hiding and separated from the rest of their family since her return to Afghanistan in April. Meanwhile, he said, the girl had grown so depressed that he had her hospitalized.
“Her father called us a week ago, said she’d been in a hospital near the Pakistani border and her life was in danger,” Najjar said. “Her father said, ‘I can’t care for her anymore, and it’s at a point where she needs to be out of here sooner rather than later.”
After doctors in the U.S. fitted the girl with a prosthetic arm, she quickly adapted to it and resumed painting, her favourite pastime in Afghanistan.
Children of War arranged a lesson for her with prominent abstract expressionist Davyd Whaley, who praised her talent.
After Galerie Michael in Beverly Hills showed her work around, she received an invitation to visit the Picasso Museum in Spain.
The foundation has found a host family that has agreed to take in Shah Bibi while the group works to keep her in the U.S. permanently.
In the meantime, doctors plan to fit her with a prosthetic eye and treat some of the scars she sustained when the grenade exploded.