New Delhi, November 13 (NIA): Sharbat Gula, the iconic “Afghan Girl” on the cover of National Geographic in 1985 who was expelled from Pakistan on a charge of forging her National Identity Card, is to come to Bengaluru in India for medical treatment, according to a tweet by the Afghan Ambassador in India and the Khaama Press news agency.
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’s in her 40s, suffers from Hepatitis C.
She is now scheduled to travel to Bengaluru in South India to receive treatment, says the 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 Computerized 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. But Gula preferred to leave the country and go back to Afghanistan.
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 Sharbat 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.
Steve McCurry photographed her as a young girl living in the largest refugee camp in Pakistan, where almost three million Afghans had sought shelter in the wake of the 1979 invasion by the Soviet Union. In 2002, McCurry tracked down Sharbat Gula down, now married and mother of five, and photographed her again. 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”.
Writing on the Gula episode Afghanistan Times wrote that the arrest of the renowned Afghan woman has exposed the “inhuman” polices of Pakistan toward Afghan refugees. Gula, known as the Afghan Mona Lisa, has suffered a lot. She was the sole breadwinner of her family and yet she was arrested, probably for cheap publicity, the paper said.
It pointed out that the Pakistani government has still not named persons who had made her fake ID card.
“Why is there no information about them? Why Pakistani security agencies have not arrested a single government official in this case? The widow received some relief because of the Afghan Ambassador’s efforts,” the paper said.
“Pakistani officials have realized their mistake, but it is too late now. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government offered assistance to Gula which she refused to take. A widow now, she has been mentally tortured. A senior Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai has been accused of pocketing the money sent for her by the National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry.”
(The featured image of Sharbat Gula at the top was the cover photo of Sharbat Gula in National Geographic: Steve McCurry)