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Italy takes in green-eyed ‘Afghan Girl’ Sharbat Gula

Sharbat Gula, famously known as the green-eyed “Afghan Girl” from National Geographic's 1985 magazine cover, has received refuge in Italy amid efforts to evacuate Afghans after the Taliban took over the country three months ago when the U.S. withdrew its remaining troops from Afghanistan

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Italy has given safe haven to Sharbat Gula, the green-eyed “Afghan Girl” whose 1985 photo in National Geographic became a symbol of her country’s wars, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office said on Thursday.

The government intervened after Gula asked for help to leave Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country in August, a statement said, adding that her arrival was part of a broader programme to evacuate and integrate Afghan citizens.

Read more: What is the future of Iran’s engagements with the Taliban?

How did it all start?

US photographer Steve McCurry took the picture of Gula when she was a youngster, living in a refugee camp on the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Her startling green eyes, peering out from a headscarf with a mixture of ferocity and pain, made her know internationally but her identity was only discovered in 2002 when McCurry returned to the region and tracked her down.

An FBI analyst, forensic sculptor and the inventor of iris recognition all verified her identity, National Geographic said at the time.

Pakistan arrested Gula in 2016

In 2016, Pakistan arrested Gula for forging a national identity card in an effort to live in the country.

Read more: US to talk with Taliban in Qatar

The then Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, welcomed her back and promised to give her an apartment to ensure she “lives with dignity and security in her homeland”.

Since seizing power, Taliban leaders have said they would respect women’s rights in accordance with Sharia, or Islamic law. But under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, women could not work and girls were banned from school. Women had to cover their faces and be accompanied by a male relative when they left home.

 

Reuters with additional input by GVS

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