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World’s best news photo is Time cover of disfigured Afghan woman

The iconic, controversial Time cover photo of an 18-year-old Afghan woman missing her nose has been named World Press Photo of the Year.

"It's an incredibly strong image," Ruth Eichhorn, one of the jurors of the annual contest said in the group's announcement of the award in recognition of the magazine's August 1, 2010 cover image. The annual Photo of the Year prize is sponsored by the nonprofit photojournalism organization World Press Photo. The photo "sends out an enormously powerful message to the world, about the 50 percent of the population that are women, so many of whom still live in miserable conditions, suffering violence," Eichhorn said. "It is strong because the woman looks so dignified, iconic."

"This could become one of those pictures -- and we have maybe just ten in our lifetime -- where if somebody says, 'you know, that picture of a girl...', you know exactly which one they're talking about," said another juror.

The image was captured by Jodi Bieber, a photographer from South Africa. The woman it depicts is Bibi Aisha, who was 18 when she left her husband, a Taliban fighter, over claims of domestic abuse. In an act of retribution, the Taliban allowed him to cut off her ears and nose. Aisha's husband abandoned her after the assault; American soldiers and aid workers later rescued her and transported her to the United States--where she now lives--for reconstructive surgery.

Time ignited a firestorm of debate over the suitability of the woman's photo when the magazine's editors featured it on the cover last August. Detractors called it "emotional blackmail" and "war porn," according to the New York Times, while others saw it as "a powerful appeal to conscience."

By Joe Pompeo

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