National Geographic’s iconic ‘Afghan girl’ in trouble


Sharbat Gula, the green-eyed 12-year-old ‘Afghan girl’ refugee immortalized on the National Geographic magazine cover was arrested on Wednesday (Oct. 26) as an undocumented resident in Pakistan.

Gula, who gave face to the plight of Afghan refugees in Pakistan during the Afghan war with Russia is now facing a 14-year imprisonment and a fine of $3,000-$5,000 if convicted after Pakistani authorities caught her with fraudulent identity papers.

Police mugshot of Sharbat Gula.
Police mugshot of Sharbat Gula.

National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry took the haunting image of Sharbat Gula in a Pakistan refugee camp in 1984. Her image became the most famous cover image in the magazine’s history.

Gula’s arrest apparently shows the desperate measures many Afghan refugees often take to avoid returning to the war-ravaged Afghanistan.
“FIA arrested Sharbat Gula, an Afghan woman, for obtaining a fake ID card,” Shahid Ilyas, of the Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency.

The FIA was also seeking three National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) officials found responsible for issuing Pakistan’s national identity card to Gula.

McCurry searched for Gula 17 years after taking the iconic photo and found her in a remote Afghan village in 2002. Gula has since married and the mother of three daughters.