The Afghan Sweetheart who graced an iconic cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985 has been detained in Pakistan on charges of being in the country illegally with allegedly fraudulent papers. Sharbat Gula was 12 years old when she was shot by Steve McCurry in a refugee tent in Pakistan, in December 1984.
The unforgettable portrait of the green-eyed girl became a worldwide representation of refugees and of political and social turmoil in the country. It has been extensively replicated, making her one of the extremely recognizable non-celebrity profiles of the 20th century.
Her face was embellished on the front of the magazine, and I for one stared at her picture, which was beautiful, those green eyes haunting, but then I went about my day, and never gave her another thought, I never even knew why she was in the front of the magazine.
In 1985, I was a mother and had one son who was a year old, and I never had the opportunity to even grasp what it was all about. Various people out there were seemingly the same as myself, and presently I find myself feeling really guilty of the fact that I never understood what was occurring in Afghanistan at the time.
On Wednesday, Gula was detained by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency. Officials invaded her home in Peshawar in northern Pakistan. Some experts state perhaps she will go unpunished, whilst others state she could see 7 to 12 years incarceration.
Gula is being detained and investigated by the police. According to the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal, she will stand a hearing Tuesday, November 1. However, they anticipate her release. If sentenced, she would face 7 to 14 years in jail and a penalty of $3,000 to $5,000.
The National Geographic Society displayed its help for Mrs. Sharbat Gula and urges the Pakistani police to clear her on humanitarian grounds. She has experienced a life plagued by multiple difficulties and much struggle.
Gula had supposedly been using an unofficial national identity card that she had obtained without proper approval in 2014. Ilyas announced his agency was further reviewing three officials speculated to of improperly distributing the card to Gula. Usually, foreign nationals are not supposed to get these cards.
The three Peshawar-based officials have been discharged and were detained on bribery charges. They are currently released on bond but are expected back in court Friday. She has suffered throughout her whole life, and her arrest is an extreme breach of her human rights.
Millions of people escaped Afghanistan during the country’s conflict with the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Many established themselves in Pakistan, where now there are an approximated 2.5 million Afghans. The refugees have not always been welcome in the country, and have suffered prejudice and hostility from some Pakistani inhabitants and bureaucrats.
In 2014, Pakistan declared intentions to transfer many of its refugees away, noting that more than 60,000 national ID cards had supposedly been obtained fraudulently by foreign fugitives. According to the United Nations, more than 350,000 Afghan exiles have since left Pakistan for their homeland.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has distanced itself from Gula’s situation. In a discussion with a Pakistani newspaper, Dan McNorton, the Senior External Relations Officer for UNHCR Pakistan, stated the organization could not help Gula since she is not listed as a fugitive.
Thousands of Afghans have been detained over the past year under suspicion of having inappropriate paperwork. However, Sharbat has global recognition, and that’s why it’s a prominent story when somebody of her stature is connected to such a situation.
Gula has never asked for any fame, and she is seeking to survive and raise her family under very unfavorable circumstances. Gula has been arrested of having given the equivalent of about $450 U.S. in bribes to officials in order to obtain the ID card.
The cards had become popular in current years since they make it simpler for people to move about and carry out business. It is common, and legal, for the cards to be distributed to Afghans. Gula had been residing in Peshawar since 2002. She had five children, however, a daughter died while giving birth several years ago, about the same time Gula’s husband Rahmat died of an illness.
Her children have been calling, they are similarly fearful of getting arrested. Gula did not want to go back to Afghanistan, her settlement is not safe.
The attempt to relocate Gula in 2002 was hard. Steve McCurry showed her photograph to numerous people in the refugee camp in Pakistan until one man recognized her. She had taken shelter in the mountains of Tora Bora. Three days later, the man brought Gula back to the camp.
She was as beautiful as the young girl Steve McCurry had snapped 17 years before. She had no concept her picture had been viewed by millions, and that it had motivated numerous people to enlist or donate to help refugees.
Please start a global petition to Sharbat Gula so that she is freed…
Apparently, Nat Geo does compensate her and Steve McCurry even helped purchase her a house, he’s also committed on his FB page to funding for her legal fees in this case. He is a really honorable man. Hopefully, they’ll legitimately see her as an important social figure and worldwide treasure, by sponsoring a visa for her to live someplace better if she wants.
FREE SHARBAT GULA!