Sharbat Gula, famously known as the ‘green-eyed’ Afghan refugee girl has been evacuated from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover after US departure.
According to reports, she has been moved to Italy as part of the west’s evacuation efforts to move Afghans, who did not want to live under Taliban rule, away from the country. Italian government organized her evacuation after she asked for help in leaving. The government would reportedly help to get her integrated into Italy’s lifestyle.
Afghan Refugee Girl on the Cover of National Geographic Magazine
The famed Afghan refugee girl gained international popularity for her striking photograph in 1985 cover of the National Geographic Magazine. American photographer Steve McCurry took the photo when she was 12-years-old. The photo not only captured Gula’s staggering green eye but also the historic tragedy of Afghanistan.
McCurry went to Afghanistan in 1984, commissioned by Nat Geo to take photos of refugee camps near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He came across a class of 15 schoolgirls and one of them stood out for her shiny emerald eyes. McCurry described the look as “intense, penetrating, and haunting”. When Gula noticed him taking her photo she tried to hide her face. Then her teacher asked Gula to reveal her face and let the whole world see Afghanistan through her eyes.
Seventeen Years Later
McCurry came back to Afghanistan in 2002 to trace Gula but everything led to a dead end. The camp where McCurry shot the famous photo was nearly shut down. He and the Nat Geo crew asked hundreds of people about the whereabouts of Sharbat Gula. Several women he came across pretended to be Gula and some even said that she had died. However, McCurry had identified visual pointers to prevent himself from getting fooled.
Eventually, they were able to find a man claiming to be Gula’s brother, who took them to her. Forensic specialists confirmed that the woman was indeed the same Afghan refugee girl from the picture. However, McCurry was shocked to see her face aged so quickly in only 20 years. He learned that she did not live an easy life but so as the thousands of other women living in a war-torn region.
Gula was married off at the age of 13 and constantly moved in and out of different refugee camps.
Running for Her Life
In 2014, the famed Afghan refugee girl surfaced in Pakistan, hiding from authorities, who accused her of faking Pakistani identity and gave orders to deport her. Pakistan arrested her but then-Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ensured to bring her to safety. She safely returned to Kabul where Ghani hosted a big reception for her at Presidential Palace and gave her the keys to a new home to live safely.
Since the Taliban takeover, Afghan women have been living in constant fear of getting lynched. Taliban promised to respect women’s rights but the news has been telling a different story. According to reports, the Taliban have banned education for girl post-primary school, and violence in the region have gone harsher since the US left.
Many civilians have been killed in the clashes between Taliban and Afghan forces, which led civilians to also join the fight. A couple of months ago they gathered in huge protest and chanted ‘Allah-hu-Akbar’ slogan to defy the rule of the Taliban.
This led some Afghans to flee the country and Italy was one of several western nations that helped airlift them out of the country.