‘Afghan girl’ from famous National Geographic cover finds asylum in Italy

Sharbat Gula, the green-eyed Afghan woman immortalised decades ago on National Geographic cover, has been evacuated to Italy, Rome says.

Italy has given safe haven to Sharbat Gula, the green-eyed “Afghan Girl” whose 1985 photo in National Geographic became a symbol of her country’s wars, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office said.

The government intervened after Gula asked for help to leave Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country in August, a statement said on Thursday, adding that her arrival was part of a broader programme to evacuate and integrate Afghan citizens.

US photographer Steve McCurry took the picture of Gula when she was a youngster, living in a refugee camp on the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Her startling green eyes, peering out from a headscarf with a mixture of ferocity and pain, made her know internationally but her identity was only discovered in 2002 when McCurry returned to the region and tracked her down.

An FBI analyst, forensic sculptor, and the inventor of iris recognition all verified her identity, National Geographic said at the time.

Refugee most of her life

In 2016, Pakistan arrested Gula for forging a national identity card in an effort to live in the country.

Gula said she first arrived in Pakistan as an orphan, some four or five years after the Soviet invasion of 1979, one of the millions of Afghans who have sought refuge over the border since.

The then Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, welcomed her back and promised to give her an apartment to ensure she “lives with dignity and security in her homeland”.

In early September, Rome said it had evacuated almost 5,000 Afghans from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power in August.

Italy earlier this month said it had granted citizenship to Afghanistan’s first woman chief prosecutor, Maria Bashir, after she had landed in the European country on September 9.

Source: RT


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