Nat Geo’s ‘Afghan Girl’ to return home following deportation from Pakistan
Gula was arrested in October following a crackdown by Pakistani authorities over false Computerised National Identity Cards being used by non-nationals.
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.
With utmost delight, I announce that Sharbat Gula is now free from the legal troubles she endured over the past couple of weeks. 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. I take this opportunity to thank all those who voiced their support and sympathy to the case of Sharbat Gula. This includes prominent as well as ordinary people within the Government, civil society, Peshawar Court and FIA office, media and the public in large. You all played a significant role resulting in today's good news. - Dr Omar Zakhilwal, Afghanistan Ambassador to Pakistan. Upon arrival, Sharbat will meet President Ghani in Kabul, and will be given the keys to her new house. THANK YOU everyone for your support, your contributions and your concern.
“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.