Nat Geo’s ‘Afghan Girl’ to return home following deportation from Pakistan

Sharbat Gula © Reuters
Sharbat Gula, better known as the ‘Afghan Girl’ from the iconic National Geographic cover by Steve McCurry, will be deported from Pakistan following her arrest for using false identity papers.

Gula was arrested in October following a crackdown by Pakistani authorities over false Computerised National Identity Cards being used by non-nationals.

READ MORE: Nat Geo’s iconic ‘Afghan Girl’ arrested for false documents in Pakistan

Gula served 11 days of her 15 day sentence  and is currently in hospital in Peshawar being treated for Hepatitis C.

In an interview with CNN she said she wants to return to Afghanistan, where she hasn’t lived since 2003. “I don't want to go anywhere but Afghanistan," she said.

Gula is a widow and has two remaining children. She left Afghanistan and lived in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp near Peshawar where she was photographed by McCurry in 1984.

Her nephew also spoke to CNN and said his aunt “never understood her fame, or the reason for it, which is why she hasn’t capitalized on it.”

Steve Mc Curry, the photographer who captured Gula’s striking image in 1984 shared a post on Instagram Friday expressing his joy that she would be returning home.

“She soon will also be free from an uncertain life of a refugee as she will be on her way back to her own country as soon as next Monday where she still is a beloved image and a national icon. She will be met by President Ashraf Ghani upon her arrival to welcome her back home and help her with her resettlement,” he said.

The photographer said she will be given keys to a new home when she arrives.

Reaction to Gula’s deportation has been mixed, with some expressing delight that the beloved icon is returning home, while others criticized Pakistan’s deportation of Afghan refugees and others said Gula was given a lighter sentence because she is well known.

Amnesty International condemned Gula’s deportation, saying it was “emblematic of Pakistan’s cruel treatment of Afghan refugees,” to send her back to a country she hasn’t been to in more than a decade.