Pakistani Police Arrests Afghanistan’s Green-Eyed Mona Lisa, Sharbat Gula

Do you remember Sharbat Gula? In 1984, The National Geographic printed a haunting picture of the anonymous ‘Mona Lisa of the Afghan War’– a then 12-year-old Pashtun refugee whose striking green eyes made everyone ask the same question: who is she?

The image went on to be named the most recognizable photograph in the magazine’s history. Seventeen years later, photographer Steve McCurry travelled back to the refugee camp in Pakistan to find her. He showed photographs (ones he had taken back in 1984) to residents and was finally able to locate Sharbat Gula, the Afghan girl.

Hearing the news of her arrest, McCurry took to his Facebook account to express his shock and dismay:

“Two hours ago, I got word from a friend in Peshawar, Pakistan, that Sharbat Gula has been arrested. We are doing everything we can to get the facts by contacting our colleagues and friends in the area. I am committed to doing anything and everything possible to provide legal and financial support for her and her family. 

I object to this action by the authorities in the strongest possible terms. She has suffered throughout her entire life, and her arrest is an egregious violation of her human rights.”

According to The Guardian, Gula has been arrested for living illegally in Pakistan under forged papers. Sources from The Dawn Newspaper say that she was arrested at her home in Peshawar on Wednesday by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

If convicted, she could face up to 14 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The post which has been shared over 2,000 times has received mixed responses. Humza Khan Daultal writes that anyone in the world faking legal documents would be arrested:

She will be released if she hasn’t done anything wrong and if the Pakistani authorities see fit. In this case she had fake Pakistani CNIC. She would’ve been arrested anywhere else in the world.”

Zarak Kakar believes that Gura’s hard life and peaceful status means she should not be harassed:

“I hope some day they will arrest some bad guys not innocent people who want to live their lives peacefully like Shabat Gula.”

Written by Teuta Hoxha

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Teuta is an undergraduate at King's College London where she is reading English Literature. She hopes to be a published writer and enjoys watching period dramas. A lot!