'Afghan girl', the face of Afghanistan's conflict and suffering, gets refuge in Italy

Sharbat Gula, the famous green-eyed “Afghan Girl” whose iconic photo in 1985 by a National Geographic photographer became the face of the Afghan conflict, has been given asylum by Italy,  Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office said

Nov 26, 2021
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'Afghan girl'

Sharbat Gula, the famous green-eyed “Afghan Girl” whose iconic photo in 1985 by a National Geographic photographer became the face of the Afghan conflict, has been given asylum by Italy,  Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office said. The intervention came after Gula sought assistance to leave Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover this August. A statement released from the Italian prime minister’s office confirmed that her arrival was part of a broader program to evacuate and integrate Afghan citizens. 

She was photographed by US photographer Steve McCurry during the years of the Afghan jihad against Soviet Red Army occupation. At the time, she was living in a refugee camp on the Pakistan-Afghan border. Her startling green eyes, with a piercing look, in the photo became known throughout the world. It ultimately became the human face of the suffering of displaced Afghans during those years.

Later in 2002, McCurry came back to Afghanistan again to track her. An FBI analyst, forensic sculptor, and the inventor of iris recognition all verified her identity, National Geographic confirmed said. 

Gula was arrested by Pakistani authorities in 2016 for forging a national identity card in an effort to live in the country. She was also sentenced to 10 days in prison and fined PKR 110,000. Ashraf Ghani, then Afghan president, welcomed her back and promised to give her an apartment to ensure she “lives with dignity and security in her homeland”.

Now in Italy, she will be integrated with Afghan society in the country. So far Italy has taken in over 5000 Afghan refugees following the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan. The US has evacuated over 80,000 Afghans from the country with a view to resettling them. 

(SAM)

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