On Wednesday, the young woman, Bibi Aisha, left Kabul for a long-planned trip to the United States for reconstructive surgery. Earlier in the day, as she prepared to leave the women’s shelter at a secret location here that has been her refuge for the past 10 months, the 18-year-old was unaware of the controversy surrounding the publication of that image.
“I don’t know if it will help other women or not,” she said, her hand going instinctively to cover the hole in the middle of her face, as it does whenever strangers look directly at her. “I just want to get my nose back.”
Reaction to the Time cover has become something of an Internet litmus test about attitudes toward the war, and what America’s responsibility is in Afghanistan. Critics of the American presence in Afghanistan call it “emotional blackmail” and even “war porn,” while those who fear the consequences of abandoning Afghanistan see it as a powerful appeal to conscience.
The debate was fueled in part by the language that Time chose to accompany the photograph: “What Happens if We Leave Afghanistan,” pointedly without a question mark.
That is exactly what will happen,” said Manizha Naderi, referring to Aisha and cases like hers. An Afghan-American whose group, Women for Afghan Women, runs the shelter where Aisha stayed, Ms. Naderi said, “People need to see this and know what the cost will be to abandon this country.”
As Ms. Naderi would be the first to concede, however, things are already bad enough for women in Afghanistan without a return to a government run by the Taliban. Noorin TV in Kabul has been running what it has called an investigative series suggesting that the shelters, all operated by independent charities, are just fronts for prostitution. The series has offered no evidence, and the station never sent anyone to visit the principal shelters.
I'm not sure what to make of the controversy surrounding the article and picture in Time, but I'm glad to read that Aisha will be getting the surgery to reconstruct her nose, and I hope that goes well for her.