Sharbat Gula is the most famous Afghan girl

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Sharbat Gula is the most famous Afghan girl
Sharbat Gula is the most famous Afghan girl

Sharbat Gula is the most famous Afghan girl.

Afghan girl

Afghan Mona Lisa

National Geographic magazine cover for June 1985 became the most famous in the history of the publication. The author of the picture, National Geographic photojournalist Steve McCurry, took it in 1984, collecting material about the Afghan-Soviet war. McCurry's task was to cover the situation of the refugees, of whom there were a lot on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

Wandering through the camp, Nasir-Bagh McCurry was interested in the tent, which was used as a room for the elementary school. Approaching the teacher, the photographer asked for permission to stay in the tent for a while and take pictures of several students. The teacher agreed, and McCurry caught the eye of one of the girls about twelve. The journalist asked the teacher who she was.

She said that the girl's home village was attacked by Soviet combat helicopters, her parents were killed and she, along with her brothers, sisters and grandmother, was forced to flee, two weeks walking through the mountains to reach the Pakistani border. McCurry took a picture of Gula, but did not recognize her name.

The photo was taken on color film without additional lighting; the “photo session” itself lasted only a few minutes. It was only upon his arrival in Washington, while developing film, that McCurry realized how extraordinary the photograph had turned out. “It was one of those incredible, amazing moments in the work of a photographer, when everything goes right,” he said later, in 2002.

The photo editor of National Geographic, however, did not immediately appreciate the efforts of Steve McCurry and at first did not want to put the Afghan girl on the cover, considering her too "heavy". But then he gave in and made the right decision: the photograph of a girl with piercing green eyes became the most recognizable in the entire history of the magazine's existence. The name of the child was unknown, so the photo was simply named “Afghan Girl”. Later the picture became known as the "Afghan Mona Lisa", it became a symbol of the Afghan conflict and the problem of refugees around the world.


In search of an Afghan girl

For more than 17 years, the name and identity of the girl remained unknown. All this time, Afghanistan was closed to the Western world, and only in 2001, after the Taliban government was overthrown by the American authorities, it was possible to begin the search (in the 1990s, McCurry made attempts to find out the girl's name, but they all remained unsuccessful).

Gula Sharbat was discovered by the National Geographic team at the age of about 30 (the woman does not remember her exact age). McCurry recognized her immediately, and it was not difficult for Gulet herself to remember this shooting: in her entire life she was photographed only three times. Later, her identity was confirmed using biometrics, which showed a complete correspondence of the iris of the eye to the image in the photograph. The woman saw her world-famous photograph for the first time only in January 2002. Before that, of course, she did not even know that she was famous all over the world.


After Gula was found, McCurry said, “In the last 17 years, I don't think there has been a single day that I haven't received any letter, e-mail or phone call about this girl. Some wanted to send her money, others - to adopt her. There were also letters from men who wanted to find her and get married."

Gulu was found in the area between the cities of Jalalabad (Afghanistan) and Peshawar (Pakistan). Her exact place of residence was not disclosed at the request of Gula herself and her husband. The woman herself adheres to strict rules, so she asked her husband for permission to lift the veil so that she could be photographed a second time.

In addition, Sharbat Gula starred in the documentary "In Search of the Afghan Girl", first shown in March 2002.During the search, the National Geographic team created a charity called the Afghan Girls Foundation, later renamed the Afghan Children's Foundation.

In June of this year, the famous photograph "Afghan Girl" turns exactly 30 years old.


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