Days after a controversial departure from Pakistan, it emerged that National Geographic’s famous “Afghan Girl” Sharbat Gula will be travelling to India for medical treatment.
Shaida Abdali, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India, announced on Twitter: “The Iconic Afghan Sharbat Gula will soon be in India for medical treatment free of cost.”
According to her lawyer, Gula, who is in her 40s, suffers from Hepatitis C. She is now scheduled to travel to Bengaluru to receive treatment, according to Afghan news agency Khaama Press.
Sharbat Gula was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency of Pakistan on October 26 from her house in Peshawar for forgery of a Pakistani Computerised National Identity Card.
She pleaded guilty to all charges against her and was sentenced to 15 days in jail and a fine of Rs. 110,000 by a special anti-corruption and immigration court. Following the sentence, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial government offered to stop her deportation from the country but she refused to stay in Pakistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, last week, personally welcomed her upon her arrival in Afghanistan, offering her a furnished apartment after she was deported by Pakistan.
“The woman who stands next to me became an iconic figure representing Afghan deprivation, Afghan hope and Afghan aspirations,” President Ghani said. “All of us are inspired by her courage and determination.”
The portrait of Gula, whose sea-green eyes and piercing gaze, made her an international symbol of refugees facing an uncertain future, first appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1985.
Photographer Steve McCurry photographed her as a young girl living in the largest refugee camp in Pakistan, where almost three million Afghans sought shelter in the wake of the 1979 invasion by the Soviet Union. In 2002, McCurry tracked Sharbat Gula down, now married and mother of five, and photographed her again. One of her children died.
That photo has been likened with Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
National Geographic also made a short documentary about her life and dubbed her the “Mona Lisa of Afghan war”.