Italy declares “Afghan girl” known for her National Geographic cover as a refugee

Italy declares "Afghan girl" known for her National Geographic cover as a refugee

Italy granted refuge to Sharbat Gula, the green-eyed “Afghan girl” whose 1985 National Geographic photo became a symbol of her country’s wars, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office said Thursday.

Italy declares “Afghan girl” known for her National Geographic cover as a refugee

The government intervened after Gula asked for help to leave Afghanistan following the Taliban’s conquest of the country in August, a statement said, adding that her arrival is part of a wider program to evacuate and integrate Afghan nationals.

The famous “Afghan girl” arrived in Italy as part of the West’s evacuation of Afghans following the Taliban takeover of the country, the Italian government said Thursday.

The prime minister’s office said its country organized Gulla’s evacuation after she asked for help to leave the country.

The Italian government will now help her integrate into life in Italy, the statement said.

American photographer Steve McCurry took Gula’s image when she was a child living in a refugee camp on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Her striking green eyes, which stood out in a face framed by a headscarf with a mixture of ferocity and pain, made her internationally famous, but her identity was only discovered in 2002, when McCurry returned to the region and tracked her down.

In 2016 Gula was arrested in Pakistan for having forged her national identity identification in an attempt to live in the country. Immediately the NGO “Amnesty International” condemned her expulsion and called the detention a “grave injustice”.

In turn, the Afghan president at the time, Ashraf Ghani, welcomed her into the country and promised her an apartment to live safely and with dignity in Afghanistan.

After the Taliban came to power in August this year, Gula did not hesitate to apply for asylum in Europe, which was granted this morning.

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