National Geographic’s iconic, green-eyed Afghan Girl was arrested Wednesday at her home in Peshawar, Pakistan, on charges she possessed a forged national identification card, authorities said.
Shahid Ilyas, an official of the Federal Investigation Agency’s National Database Registration Authority, told AFP that Sharbat Gula was arrested following a two-year investigation and could face up to 14 years in prison. [USATODAY]
Sharbat Gula was 12 years old when she was photographed by Steve McCurry in a refugee camp in Pakistan, in December 1984. The haunting image of the green-eyed girl became an international symbol of refugees and of political and social unrest in the region and was widely reproduced, making her one of the most recognizable non-celebrity faces of the 20th Century.The image took on new immediacy when McCurry found Gula again in 2002, and the world learned of how much she had changed and endured over the ensuing years. [NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC]
Last year, Gula was arrested on similar charges, but was later released. McCurry, the photographer, said he is committed to helping her legally and financially.
“I object to this action by the authorities in the strongest possible terms,” he said in a statement. “She has suffered throughout her entire life. Her arrest is an egregious violation of her human rights.”
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which assists undocumented migrants, says the arrest — although legal if the ID card is proven to be false — is symptomatic of the mounting pressure on Afghan refugees in Pakistan to return home.
“It is a sign of the times in Pakistan, that it has now reached someone who was something of a celebrity in the 80s, someone more high profile than the average,” said Nicholas Bishop, project development officer for the IOM in Afghanistan. [CNN]