Sharbat Gula, a Afghan woman, was famously photographed by Steve McCurry as he covered the Soviet-Afghan War. Sharbat Gula was 12 years old and living in Pakistani refugee camps. After appearing on the cover for National Geographic magazine’s June 1985 issue, the photo became known as Afghan Girl. Gula’s identity wasn’t known until 2002 when her whereabouts was confirmed and she was photographed the second time in her lifetime.

Sharbat Gula

Sharbat Gula

Sharbat Gula Wiki

Gula was born in 1972 to a Pashtun family. Her village was attacked in the 1980s by Soviet helicopters. Her parents were also killed during the attack. She moved with her siblings, brothers, and grandmother to Pakistan to join the refugee camp at the border to Afghanistan called Nasir Bagh.

Steve McCurry, a National Geographic photographer, traveled to Afghanistan in 1984 to document the effects the war. He visited refugee camps many of which were located on the Afghan-Pakistan border. McCurry captured what would become one of National Geographic’s most famous cover photos. McCurry took photographs of Gula and other girls while she was at school in the refugee camp in Pakistan. Later, it was revealed that McCurry didn’t get permission to take these images. This contradicts Pashtun culture in which women are not supposed to show their faces to anyone outside of the family.

The magazine’s editor initially refused to publish the image. However, he eventually agreed and published a cover photo titled Afghan Girl. The cover photo of a girl with unique green eyes, looking straight into the camera, became a symbol for the Afghan conflict as well as the refugee problems around the globe.

Sharbat Gula Marriage and family life

She married Rahmat Gula, a baker, in the middle of 1980s. She returned to Afghanistan in 1992. Gula was married to Rahmat Gula in 2002 and had three children, Robin, Zahid, and Alyan. Her fourth child, Alyan, died soon after her birth. She later had a boy. In 2012, her husband was killed.

How to identify Sharbat Gula

For more than 17 years, the identity of this girl was unknown. The journalist tried unsuccessfully to discover the name of the girl in the 1990s. Steve McCurry, of National Geographic, led a team that traveled to Afghanistan in January 2002 to search for her. However, several women and men claimed to be Gula or to have been married to her. She was eventually found by a camp resident who knew her younger brother. John Daugman used iris recognition software to confirm her identity. Gula didn’t realize how iconic her face was over the years.

Sharbat Gula Deportation to Afghanistan

Gula was detained by the Pakistani Police in October 2016 on suspicion that she had forged an identity document. The Pakistani Courts deported her to Afghanistan. She was welcomed by Ashraf Ghani, then President, with promises of housing, education, and health assistance. After 2016, she was living in Kabul and received a $700 monthly stipend to help with her daily expenses and medical bills. She was forced to flee Kabul by the Taliban in 2021.

13 Things You Need to Know About Sharbat Gula

  1. Her parents were killed in 1978 when Soviet helicopters attacked their village in Afghanistan. She fled with her four siblings, along with their grandmother, to the refugee camp at Nasir Bagh in Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan.
  2. National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry, 34 years old, photographed her with other girls in 1984 while she was at an informal school at the Nasir Bagh refugee camps under Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. McCurry didn’t know her name until 2002, when they were reunited.
  3. McCurry’s 1984 photo, which she took in 1984, was published on the cover for the June 1985 issue National Geographic. Rahmat Gul and she were married in 1985. He was a baker. Their daughters were Robin Gula, Zahid Gula (1999), and Alyan Gula (2001). Another daughter was born shortly after the birth. They also have a son.
  4. She returned to Afghanistan in 1992.
  5. McCurry led a National Geographic team that traveled to Afghanistan in January 2002 to search for her. The team found her in the mountains near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border after encountering several women claiming she was her. She was shocked to see the photo of the Afghan Girl and learn about National Geographic’s June 1985 cover.
  6. In April 2002, she graced the cover again of National Geographic. The magazine says that she doesn’t know her age, but it is likely she was 28-29 or 30 at the time McCurry discovered her in January 2002. According to her, she told McCurry that she had married Gul when was thirteen years old. However, he stated that she was sixteen at the time.
  7. Her husband, who was then aged 41, died of hepatitis C in 2012. In the same year Gjertrud Schnackenberg (then 41), began writing a work that was inspired by her. The work “Afghan Girl” was published by the New England Review in 2017.
  8. She allegedly applied for an ID card in Pakistan under the name Sharbat Bibi in April 2014.
  9. Nightwish, a Finnish metal band, dedicated an instrumental to her in 2015. It was called “The Eyes of Sharbat Gula” and it was included on the band’s eighth studio album “Endless Forms most Beautiful.”
  10. The Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), arrested McCurry in Pakistan on October 26th 2016 for having fake identity papers. McCurry shared the “Afghan Girl” photo on Instagram after learning of her arrest. McCurry wrote the caption: “I am committed [to doing] everything and anything possible to provide legal support for her and their family.” She spent 15 days in prison, and then eight days in hospital. After that, McCurry was deported to Afghanistan, where she was promised housing, education, and health care.
  11. She told BBC in January 2017 that her “Afghan Girl” photo caused more problems than it helped. It made her famous, but also led her to imprisonment. She said that she was proud of the fact that the income from the photograph helped many widows, orphans. McCurry took her photo in 1984, when she was only 10 years old.
  12. According to National Geographic, she was 45 years old when the Afghan government granted her a house of 3,000 feet and $700 per month for living expenses and medical costs in November 2017.
  13. It was confirmed that Mario Draghi, Italy’s prime Minister, granted her refugee status on November 25, 2021. She has now arrived in Rome, Italy.

Sharbat Gula Personal Life

Name : Sharbat Gula

Full Name : Sharbat Gula

Famously known As : Afghan Girl

Age : 49 years old

Date of Birth : 1972

Birth Place : Afghanistan

Currently lived : Italy

Nationality : Afghan Refugee

Martial Status : Married