There’s good news for war-torn Afghanistan. The Daily Mail reported on Thursday that the famous National Geographic Afghan “girl” with green eyes is now safe. After fleeing from the Taliban for many years Sharbat Gula was featured on the cover photo of National Geographic’s June 1985 issue. She has now been granted safe sanctuary in Italy.
Gula, a twelve-year-old girl, was instantly recognized in the West after her photograph was taken by Steve McCurry, a National Geographic war photographer. Gula, a young, poor refugee, was unaware that the striking cover photo had been taken. However, it became the most famous photo in the magazine’s history. It was years later that she actually saw the photo. “After a 17-year search McCurry discovered Gula in an Afghan village in 2002,” McCurry said. The young refugee and student was a baker’s spouse and mother to three daughters. After several false identifications of Afghan men who claimed their wives were Gula, an FBI analyst used iris recognition technology in order to confirm her identity.
McCurry did not find her. She remained in Afghanistan until the war again drove her to Pakistan.
Gula was later arrested in Pakistan in 2016 for illegally living in Pakistan with forged ID papers. This is a common practice among Afghan refugees living in Pakistan who don’t have the legal status to purchase identification papers. Gula and her children were sent back to Afghanistan where the war was still raging.
Gula was invited to a reception at the presidential palace by President Ashraf Ghani, his wife Rula, and their daughter Rula. Gula was given keys to her new apartment. Gula was a symbol of displacement as a child. Ghani said that Gula captured millions’ hearts at the time. “The immense beauty and the tremendous energy she projected from her face captured hearts, and it became one of the most iconic photographs of the 1980s and into the 1990s.”
Gula survived the years. Gula, now in her 40s, is a widowed mother to four children. Gula, whose husband was also afflicted by hepatitis C died several years ago. Gula, who arrived in Italy to assist the West in the evacuation of Afghans after the Taliban took over, has found safety. The Italian government announced this on Thursday.
Italy was among several Western countries to airlift hundreds of Afghans from the country after the withdrawal of U.S. forces in August and the Taliban takeover. While President Biden was haphazardly pulling out of Afghanistan, he also left behind hundreds of Americans and American allies as well as countless Afghan women and children such as Gulan and her family.
Taliban leaders, who have seized power in Afghanistan once more, have stated that they will respect women’s rights, but only “in accordance to sharia or Islamic law,” which means that women cannot work outside their home and girls can’t get an education. The Taliban leaders also require women to cover their faces, and they prohibit them from leaving the home without a male relative. These are just a few of the rights that women have.
Contrary to Biden, Italy’s Premier Mario Draghi organized the evacuation of many Afghan refugees. Gula requested help to leave the country. Draghi and Draghi will now “help her integrate into Italian life.”
It would be great if our president and government did the same for hundreds of Americans who remain in this war-torn, godforsaken nation.