National Geographic’s Iconic ‘Afghan Girl’ Arrested

Sharbat Gula was apprehended just a few miles from where the famous 1984 photo was taken.

AfghanGirlCover_June1985In 1985, the cover line ‘Along Afghanistan’s War-Torn Frontier’ framed an arresting photo of an Afghan girl with green eyes. This week, that phrase fits events in the young woman’s real, much later life.

From a report in The Telegraph:

Pakistani police arrested Sharbat Gula, now married and in her forties, at her home in Peshawar on Tuesday, just a few miles from the border camp where the famous National Geographic cover image was taken in 1984.

Her arrest followed reports that she, like many Afghans, had illegally procured false Pakistani identity cards–for herself and two men she claimed were her sons–in order to remain in the country.

A Pakistani border official tells Telegraph New Delhi-based correspondent Andrew Marszal that if found guilty, Gula will receive a sentence of somewhere between five and 14 years. Read the rest of the report here.

Update (Oct. 27):
An Afghan diplomatic team has arrived in Pakistan to seek the release of Gula. According to sources, that is expected to happen within 24 hours.

Update (Oct. 29):
At a court appearance Friday, Gula was sent to jail for a 14-day holding period. Her next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 11. She has denied that she intentionally obtained a fraudulent Pakistani national identification card.

Update (Nov. 2):
Despite the Pakistani government indicating that it would be releasing Gula on bail, that provision has been denied.

Update (Nov. 3):
In another strange and sad twist, Gula has now been hospitalized for Hepatitis C.

Update (Nov. 5):
A day after a Peshawar court convicted Gula of fraudulently obtaining Pakistani citizenship, the country’s government has given her clemency. Per Voice of America:

On Friday, Gula appeared in the court and pleaded guilty to charges of falsifying documents and staying illegally in Pakistan.

The judge sentenced her to 15 days in prison coupled with a financial penalty of around $1,100. He took into account her 11 days in detention, meaning she would be freed and deported on Monday. …

Provincial minister Shaukat Yousafazai said Saturday the government decided to seek a review of the deportation orders “purely on humanitarian grounds” to enable Gula to receive further medical treatment in the country.

Update (Nov. 9):
Per the stream of updates to this item, it has been a sad and difficult time for Gula. Today, VOA confirms that the mother and her four children were sent back across the border into Afghanistan today:

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the woman and said the government would provide Gula with a furnished apartment to ensure she “lives with dignity and security in her homeland”.

Previously on FishbowlNY:
30 Years Later, ‘Afghan Girl’ National Geographic Cover Still Resonates
A Turbulent Month of May for Famed Photographer Steve McCurry