The story, Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban, begins :
The Taliban pounded on the door just before midnight, demanding that Aisha, 18, be punished for running away from her husband's house. They dragged her to a mountain clearing near her village in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, ignoring her protests that her in-laws had been abusive ... Her judge, a local Taliban commander, was unmoved.
And then her husband sliced off her ears and nose.
A hand-wringing note from Time's managing editor explains "how Afghan women have embraced the freedoms that have come from the defeat of the Taliban — and how they fear a Taliban revival." Excerpted :
"I thought long and hard about whether to put this image on the cover of TIME
I'm acutely aware that this image will be seen by children, who will undoubtedly find it distressing. We have consulted with a number of child psychologists about its potential impact ...
"I would rather confront readers with the Taliban's treatment of women than ignore it. I would rather people know that reality as they make up their minds about what the U.S. and its allies should do in Afghanistan.
The much publicized release of classified documents by WikiLeaks has already ratcheted up the debate about the war. ... What you see in these pictures and our story is something that you cannot find in those 91,000 documents: a combination of emotional truth and insight into the way life is lived in that difficult land and the consequences of the important decisions that lie ahead."
About that "emotional truth" in "our story"...
Here's an article from RAWA, which has been fighting the Taliban a lot longer than Time magazine :
"Time" exploits victim to promote war
"In return for allowing Time to publish her photo, Aisha was flown to the US for reconstructive surgery. However, although Time ensured her mutilated face was seen worldwide, they appear less keen for her voice to be heard.
"I heard Aisha's story from her a few weeks before the image of her face was displayed all over the world", Ann Jones, author of Kabul in Winter, wrote in the August 12 Nation. "She told me that her father-in-law caught up with her after she ran away, and took a knife to her on his own; village elders later approved, but the Taliban didn't figure at all in this account."
The Time story, however, attributes Aisha's mutilation to a husband under orders of a Talib commander, thereby transforming a personal story, similar to those of countless women in Afghanistan today, into a portent of things to come for all women if the Taliban return to power ...
Afghan feminist Malalai Joya : "During the Taliban’s regime such atrocities weren’t as rife as it is now and the graph is hiking each day."
The article at RAWA cites a March 11, 2010 CIA document on spinning the war, published by WikiLeaks : CIA Red Cell
"Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission.
Media events that feature testimonials by Afghan women would probably be most effective if broadcast on programs that have large and disproportionately female audiences.