The woman, immortalized by an iconic National Geographic cover, has flown out of Afghanistan as tensions in the region escalate.
The Afghan woman who was immortalized on an acclaimed newspaper cover of National Geographic when a green-eyed 12-year-old girl arrived in Italy, as part of Europe’s evacuation of war-torn Afghanistan.
The woman became known around the world after war photographer Steve McCurry photographed her when she was a young girl in a refugee camp in 1984.
Refugees from the nation under siege by the Taliban have sought refuge around the world after the terrorist organization overthrew the Afghan government in August.
Italian officials organized Gula’s evacuation in response to requests from non-profit organizations working on the ground during the crisis.
A statement from the Presidency of the Council of Ministers confirmed that Gula, now in his 40s, had landed in Rome. Officials say the Italian government is working to integrate itself and others into life abroad.
“Sharbat Gula came to public attention around the world in 1985 after a photograph of her as a young girl in a refugee camp in Peshawar, taken by Steve McCurry the year before, appeared on the cover of National Geographic.” a statement read.
“She went on to symbolize the changes and conflicts in the chapter in history that Afghanistan and its people went through at that time.
“In response to requests from civil society, and in particular from non-profit organizations working in Afghanistan, which, following the events of August last year, have supported Sharbat Gula in her plea for help to leave her country.
“The Presidency of the Council of Ministers has made this possible and organized for her to travel to Italy as part of the broader evacuation program for Afghan citizens and the government’s plan for their reception and integration.”
Gula has long faced conflicts with the disputed living conditions in his home country. In 2016, she was arrested for living in Pakistan due to false identity documents.
Her arrest came as part of a Pakistani government crackdown on undocumented foreigners, in which several desperate Afghans were willing to take enormous risks to avoid returning to their war-torn homeland.
Her legacy as an icon for refugees is still strong even in 2021.
The original photograph was taken in a camp in northwestern Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Photographer McCurry later traced her, after a 17-year search, to a remote Afghan village in 2002 where she was married to a baker and mother of three daughters.
“I knew she had an incredible look, a penetrating look,” he reminded CNN 2016. “But there was a crowd around us, the dust swirled around, and it was before digital cameras and you never knew what would happen to the film.
“When I developed the image, I knew it was special. I showed it to the editor for national geographical, and he jumped up and shouted, ‘this is our next cover’. “
Originally published as Woman from iconic National Geographic cover lands in Italy in evacuation of Afghanistan