National Geographic’s Green-eyed Icon Arrested in Pakistan

The Afghan girl who became the face of National Geographic has been arrested in Pakistan for fraudulent ID papers and may face up to 14 years in prison.

National Geographic's Green-eyed Icon Arrested in Pakistan

"She is a simple, illiterate lady"

Sharbat Gula became the face of National Geographic after her mesmerising face was captured by a photographer when she was in a Pakistani refugee camp at the time of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, in 1984.

After a two-year investigation, she has been arrested by police for living in Pakistan on fraudulent identity papers.

She is facing 14 years in prison if the court finds her guilty and a fine between $3,000 to $5,000 (£2,460 to £4,100):

“FIA [Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency] arrested Sharbat Gula, an Afghan woman, for obtaining a fake ID card,” said Shahid Ilyas, an official of the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), to AFP.

They are also investigating three NADRA officials who they believe are responsible for issuing the identity card to Gula.

Young Gula is a face most people will recognise. The 40-year-old was only 12 when photographer Steve Curry captured her. Her family strongly argue that she is simply a victim of a war-torn country.

A relative of Gula spoke to CBS news, saying: “Sharbat Gula was ready to repatriate to her father’s village in Afghanistan in early summer this year. But the residents of her native village left due to ISIS.

“Her Pakistani ID was already blocked one year back. She thought the case had been closed. She is a simple, illiterate lady.”

According to officials, Gula applied for a Pakistani identity card in Peshawar in April 2014, using the name Sharbat Bibi. She was one of many of Afghan refugees who managed to dodge Pakistan’s computerised system, in order to get an identity card.

The man who made her the face of the National Geographic, is now vowing to help her as much as possible. According to the Daily Mail, Steve Curry said:

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

Pakistan is now home to approximately 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, according to UNHCR figures; a further one million unregistered refugees are estimated to be in the country.

Since 2009, Islamabad has repeatedly pushed back a deadline for them to return, but Afghans who are convicted of the same crime as Gula are usually deported before they are able to serve their sentence.

So, it is unlikely Gula will end up serving such a long time in jail.<

Jaya is an English graduate who is fascinated with human psychology and the mind. She enjoys reading, sketching, YouTubing cute animal videos and visiting the theatre. Her motto: "If a bird poops on you, don’t be sad; be glad cows can’t fly."

Images by Steve McCurry and National Geographic

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