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Sharbat Gula, the famous « Afghan with green eyes » of « National Geographic » refugee in Italy

It doesn’t matter if the shot has been retouched: it’s one of the most famous looks in the history of photography. The expression of Sharbat Gula and his emerald eyes, on the cover of National Geographic, in June 1985, symbolized for the West the consequences of the war waged from 1979 by the USSR in Afghanistan.

His wandering ended, Thursday, November 25: in a press release, Rome announces that “Afghan national Sharbat Gula has arrived in Rome”. The Italian government had « Facilitated and organized its transfer. (…) In response to requests from civil society and, in particular, NGOs present in Afghanistan. « 

Sharbat Gula rose to fame after the publication in 1985 of a photo taken the previous year in an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan by photographer Steve McCurry. « In the space of a few seconds, everything was perfect, the light, the background and the expression in her eyes », said McCurry in his book Unpublished, released in France in 2013. In 2002, Steve McCurry had found her trace and immortalized her again, holding the photo that had made her an icon.

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Arrested and expelled from Pakistan

The illiterate mother of four says she arrived in Pakistan as an orphan, four or five years after the Soviet invasion of 1979, like millions of Afghans who fled the fighting across the border.

In 2016, she was arrested near Peshawar with false papers, incarcerated before being returned to her country, Pakistan accentuating, at the time, the pressure on Afghan refugees to leave its territory.

Sharbat Gula, the famous « Afghan with green eyes » of « National Geographic » refugee in Italy

On her return to Afghanistan, she was received by President Ashraf Ghani at the presidential palace, then by former President Hamid Karzai. « I want to create a charity or a hospital to take care of all the poor, orphans and widows », she explained to the BBC in 2017. “ I would like peace to come to this country, so that people do not become homeless. May God repair this country. « 

Since returning to power in mid-August, the Taliban have established an all-male government and restricted women’s rights to work and study, attracting a number of convictions abroad. Italy, which was with the United States, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Germany, one of the five countries most involved in NATO’s « Resolute Support » mission in Afghanistan, has evacuated thousands of Afghans from the country after the US withdrawal in August.

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