You Won’t Believe Where ‘Afghan Girl’ from National Geographic is Now


Sharbat Gula, whose enchanting green eyes made her famous when she was photographed by National Geographic as a child refugee, was just released on bail. She was arrested in Pakistan on fraud charges and accused of procuring fake identity papers.

The Afghan woman who was immortalized on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985 is to be freed on bail just days after her arrest. “I think I will have to review this case because she is a woman and we should see it from a humanitarian angle,” Pakistan’s interior minister said.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the county’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) should arrange bail as soon as possible.

However, he also added “If we withdraw charges against her, deport her, or give her a temporary visa to leave Pakistan, then we will have to take back cases against the officials who issued her fake ID card. They are the real culprits and I do not want to let them off the hook in any manner.”

The country of Pakistan recently launched a major crackdown against fake IDs and Mrs. Gula was caught and arrested after a two-year probe in Peshawar, near the Afghan border.

She now faces a fine and up to 14 years in jail.

Apparently, Mrs. Gula applied for an identity card in April of 2014 using the name Sharbat Bibi. If the fraud claims are true, she is one of the thousands of Afghan refuges who are deploying desperate measures to avoid returning to their home land which has been ravaged by war.

More About the Afghan Girl Photo

The infamous “Afghan Girl” picture was taken by photographer Steve McCurry in 1984 inside of a refugee camps located in northwest Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. That photograph led to one of the most recognizable magazine covers that was ever printed. The photo has been a subject of debate many times by people who believe that it had to be photoshopped and there was no way that the picture was real. But all it takes is a little research, common sense and knowledge to confirm that the photo is indeed real.

Gula was one of the students attending an informal school in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in 1984. Her photograph was taken using a Nikon FM2 camera on Kodachrome 64 color slide film and a Nikon 105mm Ai-S F23.5 lens. The picture, which was titled “Afghan Girl” was on the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic. The image of her face with a red scarf draped loosely over her head and her green eyes staring directly into the camera helped to make history in the magazine industry. American Photo Magazine says that the image has an “unusual combination of grittiness and glamour”. Her green eyes are the subject of frequent commentary.

Steve McCurry’s Willingness to Help Out Gula

McCurry had made several unsuccessful attempts during the 1990s to locate Gula. In January 2002, a National Geographic team traveled to Afghanistan to locate the subject. McCurry, upon learning that Nasir Bagh refugee camp was soon to close, inquired of its remaining residents, one of whom he knew was Gula’s brother. He was able to send word to her hometown. However, there were a number of women who came forward and identified themselves as the girl in the photo, in addition to that, after being shown the famous photo, many young men identified Gula as their wife.

Finally, the team was able to locate Gula, who was around the age of 30 at the time. She was living in the remote region of Afghanistan and had returned to her native country from the refugee camp in 1992. Her identity was confirmed by John Daugman using iris recognition. Gula recalled being photographed, she had been photographed on only three occasions. In 1984, and during the search for her when a National Geographic’s producer took the identifying pictures that led to the reunion with Steve McCurry. She had never seen the Afghan Girl image before it was shown to her in January of 2002.
After hearing about Mrs. Gula’s arrest, Steve McCurry posted the iconic picture on Instagram, and wrote “Two hours ago, I got word from a friend in Peshawar, Pakistan that Sharbat Gula has been arrested. We are doing everything we can to get the facts by contacting our colleagues and friends in the area.”

McCurry went on to say “I am committed to doing anything and everything possible to provide legal and financial support for her and her family.”

Recent UN figures show that Pakistan hosts 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees. A further one million unregistered refugees are believed to be in the country.