National Geographic: 1985 ‘Afghan Girl’
Twelve year old orphan, Sharbat Gula, was in a a refugee camp on the Afghan/Pakistani border when Steve MCurry took her picture. He spoke about her incredible face and her penetrating green eyes. The following year, 1986, she appeared on the front of National Geographic. It was a photograph that circulated around the world. The magazine drew attention to the plight of Afghan refugees and National Geographic set up the Afghan Children’s Fund. Her portrait was likened to the Mona Lisa and has been called “The First World’s Third World Mona Lisa.”
Pain Behind Those Beautiful Green Eyes
The Russians had invaded Afghanistan and killed both Sharbat’s parents. Her grandmother, brother and three sisters walked across the mountains to Pakistan.
Marriage at a Very Young Age
Sharbat married between the age of 13 years and 16. She does not reveal whether it was for love, or a custom or for safety within a family. She is now a widow with three daughters (one having died in infancy).
Finding Gula Again
In 1982, National Geographic located Gula and her family in Pakistan. She had only remembered being photographed three times and had NEVER seen the amazing photo of herself as a twelve year old girl. It was in this year that the magazine established a school for all Afghan children.
Afghan Girl Arrested in 2016 in Pakistan
In October 2016, she was arrested for having forged documents and sentenced to 15 days in detention. After that, she was deported to Afghanistan.
Outcries from international agencies resulted and she was given a welcome reception by the President of Afghanistan. She lives in Kabul and her dream is for the education of her daughters.
Devout Muslim Woman: National Geographic in Afghanistan Again.
After finding Gula again in her forties, the magazine paid the cost of medical treatment for family members and paid for her and her family to go on a Pilgrimmage to Mecca. One of the pillars of Islam is to encourage its believers to make a pilgrimmage to Mecca. This was important for Gula and her family.
Paula here. I remember seeing that cover on the National Geographic and thought that she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I wondered what life would have been like if someone had seen that picture and adopted her. She had the face of a model. When National Geographic asked her questions about her life, she always replied, “It was the Will of God.”