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National Geographic's Iconic 'Afghan Girl' Evacuated To Italy To Escape The Taliban

Stewart Perrie


National Geographic's Iconic 'Afghan Girl' Evacuated To Italy To Escape The Taliban

Sharbat Gula, the woman made famous on a National Geographic magazine cover, has been evacuated to Europe to escape the Taliban.

She begged to be taken out of her country after the militant group seized control earlier this year and her prayers have been answered by Italy.

The office of the prime minister, Mario Draghi, confirmed the widowed mother of four has been removed from Afghanistan and his government will help her integrate into Italian life.

Italy is one of many Western countries working hard to rescue Afghans who are looking to flee their country hoping for a better life.

Sharbat became famous around the world when photographer Steve McCurry took a picture of her when she was a girl aged just 12 years old.

Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

She was living in a refugee camp on the Pakistan-Afghan border during the Soviet-Afghan war, which raged throughout the 1980s.

Her intense, green-blue eyes and direct stare into the camera became an iconic image of that time and helped raise awareness for her people's plight.

The image landed on the cover of a 1985 edition of the magazine and she became known as the 'Afghan Girl'. It remains to be one of National Geographic's most iconic images ever produced.

It wasn't until McCurry went back to the region in 2002 that her identity was revealed.

He managed to track Gula down and National Geographic used an FBI analyst, forensic sculptor and the inventor of iris recognition to verify the woman was the 'Afghan Girl', according to Reuters.

Credit: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Credit: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

She resurfaced 12 years later after she was discovered living in Pakistan.

In 2016, she was caught with a fake identity card and was sentenced to 15 days in jail, pay a 110,000 Pakistani rupee (£841/AUD$1,550) fine and was ordered to leave.

She was welcomed back to Afghanistan after then-President Ashraf Ghani promised her an apartment so she could 'live with dignity and security in her homeland'.

"As a child, she captured the hearts of millions because she was the symbol of displacement," Ghani said at the time.

"The enormous beauty, the enormous energy that she projected from her face captured hearts and became one of the most famous photographs of the 1980s and up until the 1990s.

"It is a privilege for me to welcome her. We are proud to see that she lives with dignity and with security in her homeland."

Featured Image Credit: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Topics: News

Stewart Perrie
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