comscore ‘Afghan Girl’ from 1985 National Geographic cover takes refuge in Italy | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
News

‘Afghan Girl’ from 1985 National Geographic cover takes refuge in Italy

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2016
                                National Geographic’s famed green-eyed “Afghan Girl” Sharbat Gulla poses for a photo during a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, at the Presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2016

    National Geographic’s famed green-eyed “Afghan Girl” Sharbat Gulla poses for a photo during a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, at the Presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2016
                                Pakistan’s Inam Khan, owner of a book shop shows a copy of a magazine with the photograph of Afghan refugee woman Sharbat Gulla, from his rare collection in Islamabad, Pakistan.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2016

    Pakistan’s Inam Khan, owner of a book shop shows a copy of a magazine with the photograph of Afghan refugee woman Sharbat Gulla, from his rare collection in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Sharbat Gula, who became an international symbol of war-torn Afghanistan after her portrait at a refugee camp was published on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985, was evacuated to Rome after her country fell to the Taliban, the Italian government said Thursday.

Ever since the United States pulled out of Afghanistan in August, nonprofit organizations had appealed for help in evacuating Gula, the Italian government said in a statement.

“The prime minister’s office has brought about and organized her transfer to Italy,” the statement said.

It did not say when she arrived, and the foreign ministry later said it did not know whether she would remain in Italy or go elsewhere.

Gula, now in her late 40s and the mother of several children, was believed to be 12 when Steve McCurry photographed her, with a piercing, green-eyed stare, in 1984 in a refugee camp in Pakistan. He did not learn her name until 2002, when he found her in the mountains of Afghanistan and was able to verify her identity.

A 2002 National Geographic article about McCurry’s search for her described the adult Gula: “Time and hardship had erased her youth. Her skin looks like leather. The geometry of her jaw has softened. The eyes still glare; that has not softened.”

In 2016, Gula was deported from Pakistan after being arrested on charges of obtaining false identity documents, a common practice among Afghans in Pakistan. Human rights groups condemned the Pakistani government for sending her back to Afghanistan. On her arrival, the Afghan president at the time, Ashraf Ghani, gave her a warm welcome and provided her with a government-funded apartment.

In August, Taliban leaders moved into the presidential palace that had been occupied by Ghani. Their takeover once again displaced hundreds of thousands of Afghans. Pakistan braced for as many as 700,000 refugees. Italy has evacuated more than 5,000 people from Kabul, the government said.

In the United States, more than 22,500 Afghan refugees have been resettled as of Nov. 19, including 3,500 in one week in October. About 42,500 more remain in temporary housing on eight military bases around the country while they wait for housing.

Until the Taliban takeover, the rights of Afghan women had been expanding. Afghan girls were going to school and getting college degrees, and more were participating in civic life. But under the first few months of the Taliban’s conservative rule, women have already faced new restrictions, like not being allowed to play sports. The Taliban have severely restricted education for women, and Taliban gunmen have gone door-to-door in some neighborhoods looking for anyone who supported the U.S. efforts in the country.

Heather Barr, the associate director for women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, said that it was a particularly dangerous time to be a high-profile woman in Afghanistan. She said there had been cases of prominent women being threatened or intimidated, or feeling like they had no choice but to stay in hiding or change locations constantly to avoid attention.

“The Taliban don’t want women to be visible, and she’s an extremely visible Afghan woman,” Barr said of Gula.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


Comments (0)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up