Iconic National Geographic Cover Girl Going Back to Afghanistan


The world famous and now iconic photograph of her on the cover of the 1984 National Geographic magazine doesn’t seem to have been understood by Sharbat Gula, the woman who pleaded guilty in court pertaining to her illegal stay in Pakistan.

Sharbat Gula, with her haunting eyes that still continue to mesmerize millions around the globe and was hailed as the new age Mona Lisa, wants to return to her native Afghanistan now after being cured of her illness which made her stay at Peshawar in Pakistan for medical treatment at a hospital.

The photograph taken by Steve McCurry when she was staying at an Afghan refugee camp after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was the last photograph of her which appeared in the media after Steve returned again in 2002 and photographed her as part of his report on the plight of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

The rarity of photographs of such an iconic woman is due to the highly conservative background she comes from which forbids women to engage in a lot of activities which are deemed normal for women in the West.

Grave Injustice, was the outcry from Amnesty International after the deportation case surfaced and as Gula is an undocumented refugee, no formal assistance can be sought by her from relevant agencies in Afghanistan that aim to rehabilitate refugees back into their homeland.

The deportation campaign in Pakistan is part of the nation’s reformed terror policy which has seen the send back of nearly 370,000 Afghans since July 1, as per a report by the Human Rights Watch.

Afghanistan is still an extremely underdeveloped country with lack of facilities and high poverty which will cause immense problems for the repatriated refugees as the country still grapples with the after-effects of a decade of ongoing war which has failed to bring sustainable peace in the country. The refugee tide to Pakistan began in the 1980s and continued when it was reversed by the Pakistani authorities as part of their National Action Plan, made after the deadly Peshawar school attack in 2014.