Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

Written by Hada MessiaNicola Ruotolo, CNNRome

The “Afghan girl”, who became famous after appearing on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985, has been granted refugee status by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, according to a statement from the Italian government’s press office.

The striking portrait of the then 12-year-old Sharbat Gula, a Pashtun orphan in a refugee camp on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, was taken in 1984 and released next year. Gula was traced decades later and lived in Pakistan after no one knew her name for years.

Now in his late forties, Gula has arrived in Rome, according to the Italian Prime Minister’s office.

“In 1985, thanks to the photograph of Steve McCurry, who the year before had portrayed her very young in a refugee camp in Peshawar for the cover of National Geographic Magazine, Sharbat Gula achieved global fame, to the point of symbolizing the upheavals and conflicts of that phase history. , which Afghanistan and its people went through, “reads a statement issued by Draghi’s office.

Sharbat Gula pictured in Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2016.

Sharbat Gula pictured in Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2016. Credit: Haroon Sabawoon / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

“In response to requests from civil society and especially among the non-profit organizations active in Afghanistan, which after the events of August last year received Sharbat Gula’s appeal to be helped to leave their country, the Prime Minister took it “and organized her transfer to Italy in the broader context of the program for the evacuation of Afghan citizens and the government’s plan for their reception and integration,” the statement continued.

CNN has asked the Italian government if Gula’s family also received refugee status, but has not yet heard back.

In 2016, McCurry told CNN the story behind the photograph.

“I knew she had an incredible look, a penetrating look,” he said. “But there were a lot of people around us, the dust was swirling around, and that was before digital cameras, and you never knew what was going to happen to the film.”

McCurry said he knew the picture was special when he developed it.

“I showed it to the editor of National Geographic and he jumped up and shouted, ‘this is our next front page,'” he added.


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