St Julians, Malta (CNN) — Shweyga Mullah’s face lights up with a smile that spreads like a sunrise across her face.
She’s just arrived at a party, organized by the small Ethiopian community on Malta. It’s the first time she’s seen many of her new friends since being discharged from hospital last week.
They raise paper cups of soda in a toast and Shweyga bashfully takes the salute and laughs and jokes with her fellow Ethiopians.
It’s heart-warming to see her finally enjoying herself. All her Ethiopian friends here had been lured to Libya by promises of lucrative work. But no one we know of has suffered quite like Shweyga.
One friend Emanuel Tsegay tells me that on hearing Shweyga’s story he burst into tears.
Shweyga’s unbelievably awful story of torture at the hands of Colonel Moammar Gaddafi’s daughter-in-law Aline has touched people around the world and resulted in some $40,000 being donated to a special fund for her recovery.
We found Shweyga abandoned in a Gaddafi family compound in August.
Lying alone on a mattress on the floor, she told me how Aline Gaddafi and one of her staff poured boiling water over her head and body, simply because she’d been unable to stop one of the Gaddafi children from crying.
Offers of help poured into CNN Center and resulted in her evacuation to the tiny Mediterranean nation of Malta.
She arrived here in September and has undergone surgery and skin grafts since then.
Now though, surgeons are satisfied enough with her progress to allow her to become an outpatient.
She’s staying at a small apartment on the island and is receiving some financial help from the Qatari government, which has helped bankroll the Libyan revolution and arm its fighters.
Shweyga’s life here is not ideal though. She yearns to see her family, but red-tape has slowed down efforts to bring her relatives to Malta.
Shweyga says she doesn’t feel ready physically or emotionally to return to Ethiopia and be subjected to the scrutiny of people in her hometown. She remains profoundly self-conscious of her appearance.
But the doctors and nurses treating her at the Mater Dei hospital are pleased with her recovery.
Nurse Mary Rose Bonnici has been treating her since she arrived. We watched as she delicately trimmed the growing crown of hair on her scalp. It’s growing back fast but for now it must be kept short, in order to prevent infection.
Nurse Bonnici says: “She is making very good progress. It was discharging before now it’s getting drier and drier. But now it’s good, very good, she feels it’s good anyway.”
The consultant in charge of her case, Francis Xavier Dermanin, says: “Ms. Mullah had regular physiotherapy for mobilization of her limbs especially the right shoulder which showed signs of early contractures due to immobility from the burns that she had sustained.
“She also had the support of our psychologists in helping her to get over the horrific trauma that she had sustained. In both aspects she did very well.
“In general, Ms. Mullah is more confident and communicating well with the medical and nursing staff.”
It’s encouraging that her hair is growing back in places on her head. But the hair follicles towards the front, where the skin graft was performed, seem to have been permanently killed off.
The doctors hope there are enough towards the back to enable her to grow her hair out and disguise the scars.
I ask Shweyga about Aline Gaddafi- and she speaks rapidly and with conviction.
She hopes the former dictator’s daughter-in-law will one day be caught and prosecuted. But like her husband Hannibal Gaddafi, Aline’s whereabouts remains unknown. Victims like Shweyga are still waiting for justice.