‘Afghan Girl’ on National Geographic magazine cover gets refugee status in Italy

Written by Hada MessiahNicola Ruotolo, CNNRome

The “Afghan girl” who rose to fame 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 Italy’s government news agency.

The striking portrait of then 12-year-old Sharbat Gula, a Pashtun orphan in a refugee camp on the Afghan-Pakistan border, was taken in 1984 and published the following year. Gula was tracked down in Pakistan decades later, after years no one knew her name.

According to the cabinet of the Italian Prime Minister, Gula is now in her late 40s and has arrived in Rome.

In 1985, thanks to the photography of Steve McCurry, who had portrayed her very young in a refugee camp in Peshawar for the cover of National Geographic Magazine the year before, Sharbat Gula gained worldwide fame, symbolizing the vicissitudes and conflicts of phase history. that Afghanistan and its people went through,” said a statement from Draghi’s office.

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

“In response to requests from civil society and in particular non-profit organizations operating in Afghanistan who, following the events of last August, have received the call from Sharbat Gula to be assisted in leaving of their country, the Prime Minister took it upon herself and organized her transfer to Italy within the broader context of the evacuation program for Afghan civilians and the government’s plan for their reception and integration,” the statement continued.

CNN has asked the Italian government whether Gula’s family has also been granted refugee status, but has not heard anything yet.

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

“I knew she had an incredible look, a piercing look,” he said. “But there was a crowd of people around us, the dust was swirling around, and it was for digital cameras and you never knew what was going to happen to the film.”

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

“I showed it to the National Geographic editor, and he jumped up and yelled, ‘That’s our next cover,'” he added.


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