The “Afghan girl with the green eyes”, whose portrait in 1985 is an iconic National Geographic-cover became a refugee again. She has been transferred to Italy, the government of Mario Draghi announced on Thursday.
Today at 05:40
Sharbat Gula was photographed in 1984 in a refugee camp on the Afghan-Pakistan border, where she stayed with her family as a 12-year-old. Now she has fled Afghanistan again, this time with her daughters.
After the Taliban took power, the situation of Gula and her family gradually became unbearable. She therefore asked the Italian government to receive them. That has happened, said Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s spokesman on Thursday after her arrival in Rome. She is planned to stay in Italy for the next few years. The Italian government will help her integrate, Draghi said.
Face of a catastrophe
The photo of Gula, taken by war photographer Steve McCurry, appeared on the cover of the magazine in 1985 National Geographic and quickly became one of the most famous images in press photography history. The young girl with the piercing green eyes became “the face” of a humanitarian catastrophe: millions of Afghan civilians had to flee during those years after the Soviet Union invaded the country.
After years of searching, McCurry found her in 2002 and again her portrait found its way onto the cover of National Geographic. Less sparkle, but still those serious green eyes.
Hiding in Pakistan
The third known photo of Sharbat Gula is a mugshot. In 2014 she went into hiding in Pakistan, where she had lived for years. She would stay there with false papers, and for that “identity fraud” she risked fourteen years in prison and a fine of five thousand dollars.
In 2016, she was captured and deported to Kabul, a few days before she was due to leave for her homeland. The then Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed her with open arms and promised to support her financially. A few months later, he ceremoniously handed her the keys to a new home.
“I hope the government will deliver on all its promises,” she said at the time. writes the BBC. “I want to stay here, I hope there will be peace in this country.” Like many Afghan women, Gula had to bury that hope.