Green-eyed Afghan famous for National Geographic cover becomes refugee in Italy – 11/25/2021 – World

Among the thousands of Afghans who left the country after the Taliban’s resumption of power is a citizen who became known worldwide nearly 40 years ago when she became the symbol of another migration crisis in Central Asia.

Italy announced this Thursday (25) that it has given refuge to Sharbat Gula, 49, an Afghan who at age 12 was the cover of an issue of National Geographic magazine, illustrating a report on refugees crossing the border into Pakistan in the midst of war triggered by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Gula traveled to the European country as part of the evacuation led by Western countries after the Taliban took power in August. The move, according to the Associated Press agency, was organized by non-profit organizations operating in Afghanistan.

According to the office of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the Afghan woman asked for help to leave her home country and will now have support from the Italians to integrate into the new home. In a statement, the prime minister said that Gula’s photograph came to “symbolize the vicissitudes and conflict of the chapter of history that Afghanistan and its people were going through at the time”.

“The government facilitated and organized his transfer to Italy, in the broader context of an evacuation program for Afghan citizens,” the text states.

In Steve McCurry’s National Geographic photo, the girl’s bright green eyes stood out, with a serious countenance and a red veil over her black hair.

In 2002, McCurry met the girl again, and the moment gave rise to the documentary “The Eyes of Sharbat Gula”, broadcast by National Geographic.

The meeting took place in the Afghan mountain region of Tora Bora, almost on the border with Pakistan – Gula had left the refugee camp many years before. The program followed up on the quest to locate her and prove her identity, in an effort that included facial recognition techniques from the FBI, the US federal police.

Years later, in 2014, Gula returned to the focus of the international press after she was arrested in Pakistan, accused of buying a fake ID card. She went into hiding after the episode, but in 2016 her whereabouts were discovered and she was eventually deported to Afghanistan. Upon arriving in her native country, she was received by the then president, who handed her the keys to a new apartment.

At the time, the Pakistani government was pressuring its neighbor to take back some 2.5 million Afghans who had moved fleeing the invasion of the Soviet Union and later the extremist Taliban regime, which held power from 1996 to 2001.

In the year of the deportation, the US had already consolidated its military intervention in the country and saw a resumption of violence due to the Taliban insurgency.

In 2017, the BBC British network published an interview with Gula — the first she had given since 2002. At the time she was living in Kabul with her four children (three girls and a boy) and said that her husband and a 22-year-old daughter had died of hepatitis C in Peshawar, Pakistan.

The Afghanistan she left this year is once again rife with conflict and extremism. Since the Taliban regained power in August and the US withdrew its troops from the country, Afghan women have been banned from playing sports and are again restricted from studying. Last Sunday, the regime announced guidelines to the media that determine which TV stations are prohibited from broadcasting films, series and soap operas with actresses.

The country has also suffered from terrorist attacks in the country’s main cities, many claimed by the local arm of Islamic State, a rival to the Taliban.

On the 13th, six people died after a bomb exploded in a minibus in the Dasht-e-Barchi area, populated by the Hazara Shiite ethnic minority. It was at least the sixth such incident in 40 days.


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