The Iconic “Afghan Girl” Has Been Deported

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The Iconic “Afghan Girl” Has Been Deported

Art credits to Nicole Zhu!

Art credits to Nicole Zhu!

Art credits to Nicole Zhu!

Art credits to Nicole Zhu!

Ahmed Sheikh ‘18

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In 1984, photographer Steve Curry took a photo for the cover of National Geographic Magazine. The photo depicts a young woman, Sharbat Gula, who was living in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Today, Sharbat Gula has returned to her home country of Afghanistan after being officially deported from Pakistan earlier this year. In order to further understand Gula’s deportation, is important to first understand her life story and her journey.

In the late 80’s, during the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, many Afghani citizens fled to refugee camps in the neighboring country of Pakistan. Sharbat Gula’s parents were killed in a bombing when she was about six years old. In order to escape, she traveled with her grandparents, brother, and three sisters, venturing on foot through the mountains until they reached Pakistan.

Vamsi Talasila ’18 proudly states, “Gula is a true hero who exemplifies persistence and bravery. Gula along with other refugees, despite their arduous journey, knew what they had to do to survive, and did so at all costs.”

When Gula and her family crossed the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, they settled in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp. Gula attended school in the refugee camp, where the well-known photo was taken. By the late 90’s, Gula returned to Afghanistan, where she was married as a teenager and had four girls. In the early 2000’s, Steve Curry, who is credited for taking Gula’s picture, was able to re¬-identify her, despite not recording her name during their first encounter. He took her picture once more, this time in her native country.

In 2014, Gula had traveled back from Afghanistan to Pakistan, where she was living illegally. However, the following year, Gula was accused of having an illegal ID (IDs ensure citizenship in Pakistan). In order to justify her lack of an ID, she claimed that she had two sons, a gimmick many Afghanis use to try and get immigration documents. However, this plan shortly backfired after the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) caught onto her scheme, and cancelled her CNIC identification card.

Rebecca Lee ’18 exclaims, “I don’t understand why she went back home if it’s so dangerous. And for her to go back to Pakistan and get accused of living there illegally is very wrong of the Pakistani government. She’s older now, imagine how hard life is for her.”

Unfortunately, as of October 26, 2016, the Pakistani government concluded that Gula was forging her ID, sentenced her to fifteen days in detention, and ultimately deported her back to Afghanistan.

As a result, the Pakistani government has faced a lot of criticism for Gula’s deportation. According to NPR, Gula is currently suffering from Hepatitis C, her husband is dead, and she bears the burden of taking care of her four daughters alone. Many people are astonished that the Pakistani government deported Gula, given her health conditions and living circumstances.

In an article written by The New York Times, Champa Patel states, “Pakistan’s decision to deport Sharbat Gula is a grave injustice. For decades, she was known as the world’s most famous refugee and seen as a symbol of Pakistan’s status as a generous host. Now, by sending her back to a country she hasn’t seen in a generation and her children have never known, her plight has become emblematic of Pakistan’s cruel treatment of Afghan refugees.”

Despite the uproar related to Gula’s deportation, she was warmly welcomed back to Afghanistan by President Ghani, where she was treated with generous hospitality and even given a place to stay.

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