“Afghan Girl”: National Geographic Cover to Police Mugshot

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The green-eyed “Afghan Girl,” famous for the photo taken by Steve McCurry for National Geographic, has been arrested in Pakistan for having a fake ID card.

Sharbat Gula was 12 when her image became the most famous National Geographic cover in the magazine’s history. McCurry captured his iconic image of her in 1984 in a refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan. The photograph became one of the defining images of a conflict between mujahideen insurgents and Soviet occupying forces. Millions of people were displaced by the conflict and many never returned, establishing businesses and starting families in Pakistan. Today the country has an Afghan refugee population of 2.5 million.

Gula, also known as Sharbat Bibi, was arrested in Peshawar on Tuesday as part of an investigation into identity card fraud. Now in her 40s, Gula could be jailed for up to 14 years or be deported if convicted.

The famed “Afghan Girl” has spent her life moving between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where violence and instability continue to rage, as McCurry learned when he met and revealed her identity in 2002.

Responding to the news of Gula’s arrest Wednesday, McCurry wrote on Facebook:

We are doing everything we can to get the facts by contacting our colleagues and friends in the area.

I am committed to doing anything and everything possible to provide legal and financial support for her and her family.

I object to this action by the authorities in the strongest possible terms. She has suffered throughout her entire life, and her arrest is an egregious violation of her human rights.

According to Pakistani officials, Gula applied for a Pakistani identity card in Peshawar in April 2014, using the name Sharbat Bibi. The arrest comes as Pakistan launched a crackdown against those with fake ID cards.

This year has seen a surge in the number of Afghans leaving Pakistan, after a government crackdown and an increase in financial assistance from the UN to refugees who return to Afghanistan.

Bryan White
Bryan is an editorial intern at Law Street Media from Stratford, NJ. He is a sophomore at American University, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism. When he is not reading up on the news, you can find him curled up with an iced chai and a good book. Contact Bryan at



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