ROM – National Geographic magazine’s famous green-eyed Afghan girl has arrived in Italy as part of the evacuation of Afghans by the West after the Taliban took over the country, the Italian government said on Thursday.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office said Italy organized the evacuation of Sharbat Gulla after asking for help with her departure. The Italian government will now help to integrate them into life in Italy, the statement said.
Gulla gained international fame as an Afghan refugee girl in 1984 after war photographer Steve McCurry’s photo of her with piercing green eyes appeared on the cover of National Geographic. McCurry found her again in 2002.
She turned up in Pakistan in 2014, but went into hiding when authorities accused her of buying a forged Pakistani ID card and ordered her deportation. She was flown to Kabul, where the President held a reception for her at the Presidential Palace and handed over her keys to a new apartment.
Italy was one of several Western countries that expelled hundreds of Afghans from the country following the withdrawal of US forces and the Taliban seizure of power in August.
In a statement announcing Gulla’s arrival in Rome, Draghi’s office said her photo had come to “symbolize the vicissitudes and conflict of the chapter of history that Afghanistan and its people were going through at the time.”
She said she had received inquiries from “civil society figures, particularly non-profit organizations operating in Afghanistan,” supporting Gulla’s request for assistance with the country.
Italy organized their trip to the country “as part of the wider evacuation program for Afghan citizens and the government’s plan for their reception and integration,” the statement said.