A living symbol of the plight of war-torn Afghanistan’s civilians has reached Italy alive.
As a young girl, Sharbat Gulla was photographed by Steve McCurry in 1984 while she was at a refugee camp in Pakistan, where Afghan civilians fleeing the Soviet Union’s troops lived at the time. She was 12 when the image was taken,
Her photo became featured on the cover of National Geographic in 1985. The magazine’s iconic “Afghan girl” cover became one of its most famous in its history.
Sharbat Gulla gained international fame in 1984 after a photograph of her was published on the cover of National Geographic. https://t.co/636iXHtBaq
— First Coast News (@FCN2go) November 27, 2021
The office of Premier Mario Draghi said Italy responded to her plea and helped her reach safety.
The government will now help Gulla settle in Italy, a statement from Draghi’s office said.
McCurry found Gulla in 2002, according to the Daily Mail, at which time she lived in a remote Afghan village, was married to a baker and had three children.
Should the U.S. have been the one to rescue her?
In 2014, she appeared in Pakistan, was accused of buying a fake identity card and was deported.
She was flown to Kabul in 2016, where President Ashraf Ghani honored her at a reception and gave her the keys to an apartment. At that time she had four children.
“As a child, she captured the hearts of millions because she was the symbol of displacement,” Ghani said then.
“The enormous beauty, the enormous energy that she projected from her face captured hearts and became one of the most famous photographs of the 1980s and up until the 1990s,” he said then.
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) November 27, 2021
In a statement announcing Gulla’s arrival in Rome, Draghi’s office said her photograph had come to “symbolize the vicissitudes and conflict of the chapter in history that Afghanistan and its people were going through at the time.”
It said it had received requests “by those in civil society, and in particular by non-profit organizations working in Afghanistan” to help Gulla, who is now a widow.
Her evacuation was “part of the wider evacuation program in place for Afghan citizens and the government’s plan for their reception and integration,” the statement said.
Although the Taliban has promised that it will respect the rights of women, its previous regime did not do so, rating fear in the West that the same will happen in time.