Rahmat Gul/AP
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, poses for photographers during a meeting with National Geographic's famed green-eyed "Afghan Girl," Sharbat Gulla, and family, at the Presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Nov. 9, 2016. The president welcomed Gulla home after she was deported from Pakistan, after a court had convicted her on charges of carrying a forged Pakistani ID card and staying in the country illegally.

'Afghan girl' Sharbat Gula returns home after deportation from Pakistan

Sharbat Gula first became famous in 1985, when National Geographic used her image as a symbol of strife in Afghanistan. Now, Ms. Gula is on her way home to Afghanistan, still a symbol of refugees around the world.

The subject of one of the world’s most famous photographs, a green-eyed young woman first known as the “Afghan Girl,” has returned home to Afghanistan after years of living as an illegal refugee in Pakistan.

Sharbat Gula became a symbol of Afghanistan’s troubles as a young teen, when a National Geographic cover put her haunted green eyes on coffee tables across the country. She was deported overnight from Pakistan, after being arrested last month for illegal residence in Pakistan, where she had lived with her children for years. 

Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani welcomed Gula home on Wednesday during a ceremony at the palace in Kabul.

"The woman who stands next to me became an iconic figure representing Afghan deprivation, Afghan hope and Afghan aspirations," President Ghani said, according to Reuters. "All of us are inspired by her courage and determination.”

Gula became famous in 1985, when she was about 12, after photographer Steve McCurry captured her troubled visage during a trip to document Afghani refugees, many of whom fled the country due to the turbulence created by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

“We left Afghanistan because of the fighting,” her brother, Kashar Khan, told National Geographic in 2002. “The Russians were everywhere. They were killing people. We had no choice.”

Gula and her siblings left the country after their parents were killed by Soviet bombs, walking many freezing miles through Afghanistan’s snowy mountains in order to get to Pakistan.

They were just a handful of the many Afghani refugees who migrated to Pakistan due to turbulence at home. Now, Pakistan is taking steps to return those refugees to Afghanistan, despite Afghanistan’s own ongoing problems. Mr. Ghani is currently in the midst of trying to broker a peace deal between the government and the Taliban, after signing a draft of a peace deal in September.  

Although Afghanistan will likely have a difficult time caring for the potential influx of approximately 2.5 million refugees, Afghanistan’s president says that he welcomes their return.

"I've said repeatedly, and I like to repeat it again, that our country is incomplete until we absorb all of our refugees," Ghani said.

Gula is accompanied by her children; her husband passed away several years ago. In 2002, she told National Geographic that she hopes that her daughters have the chance to become educated, an opportunity that she never had.

“I want my daughters to have skills,” she said. “I wanted to finish school but could not. I was sorry when I had to leave.”

Ghani says that he will provide Gula with an apartment so that she can live with “dignity and security” in Afghanistan, after her arrest and deportation in Pakistan for illegal residence and falsifying legal documents. Since the arrest, she had been receiving care in a hospital. 

The “Afghan girl” told press that she was happy to come home, and that she wanted to return to her hometown, underscoring the challenges of refugees not only in Afghanistan, but worldwide.

"I want to go back to Afghanistan, to my hometown," Gula told CNN. " I don't want to go anywhere but Afghanistan."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to  'Afghan girl' Sharbat Gula returns home after deportation from Pakistan
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today