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Long time miseries of Green-Eyed celebrity now going to end

By: Saqib Ali

The miseries and hardships of war-affected people of Afghanistan are un-ending due to internal conflicts and external aggression, they are now getting credentials of “universal and forever refugees.” No one can deny the fact that besides neighboring and regional countries, the war-affected and war-scattered Afghans are spreading throughout the world, especially in west European and American countries.

The most recent instance of these “universal and forever refugees” is National Geographic magazine’s famed holder green-eyed “Afghan Girl” Ms. Sharbat Gulla, who besides experiencing hardships in tents and mud-houses camps, also imprisoned for several hours in Peshawar jail.  .

The International media reports reveal that Ms. Sharbat Gulla has got refuge now in Italy. “Afghan citizen Sharbat Gulla has arrived in Rome,” a statement from Italy’s presidency of the Council of Ministers said.
Earlier she remained for several decades as a refugee in Pakistan along with other family members and relatives. Most of her family members and close relatives have worked as daily wagers in construction

Gulla gained international fame in the 1980s as an Afghan refugee girl when US photographer Steve McCurry’s captured her photo in a Pakistan refugees camp which was published on the front cover of National Geographic magazine. The image is of an adolescent girl with green eyes in a red headscarf looking intensely at the camera, her portrait as a 10-year-old became an iconic image of Afghan refugees fleeing war and instantly caught the attention worldwide.

Journey of Green-eyed Gulla

An ethnic Pashtun, Sharbat Gulla was born around 1972 in a small village in Afghanistan eastern zone bordering with Pakistan. Her earliest memories include sounds of bombardments, bloodshed, and bombs falling. She remembers it as a time of hunger where she would rise for prayer at dawn and go to bed hungry. Sometime in the early ’80s, her village was attacked by Soviet helicopter gunships that killed her parents.

Pashtun by ethnicity and from a rural background, Gulla’s family fled their village in eastern Nangarhar during the Soviet Union’s invasion and its planes bombing of Afghanistan when she was around 12 years old. Along with her father, brother, and three sisters, she walked across the mountains to Pakistan, and settled as a refugee in a tent village Nasir Bagh in 1984.

Sharbat Gulla married Rahmat Gul between the age of 16 and returned to her village in Afghanistan in 1992 after the resignation of the former USSR backed President. However, later she along with her other relatives and family members returned and housed in a locality of Peshawar. During this second refuge period her husband died from hepatitis C around 2012, and now she is a widow. Gula has five children, a ten-year-old son and three daughters Robina, Zahida, and Alia. A fourth one daughter died in infancy, she expressed hopes that her children will be able to get an education.

During her second stay as a refugee in a rented house at Nothia, she was again catched by National Geographic team after 9/11, enabling her of getting praises from all over the world, Like other Afghan nationals, she also got Pakistan’s National Identity Card, which at later stage resulted her imprisonment and forced deportation to Afghanistan.

Being a practicing Muslim, Gulla normally covers her face and prefers to wear a burqa, following the religious and cultural norms of Pashtun society to fully cover herself under the burqa.

A devout Muslim, Gula was hesitant to meet McCurry, however, as a part of religious and cultural norms, she was not allowed to meet with males from outside the family.
When she was asked if she had ever felt safe in AshrafGhani’s reign in Afghanistan, she responded, “No! But life under the Taliban was better, At least there was peace and order.” She replied, When asked how she had survived, she responded that it was “the will of God”. After finding Gulla, National Geographic covered the costs of medical treatment for her family and a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Like many Afghans, she also sought refuge in Pakistan and lived there for 35 years – but she was imprisoned and deported last autumn for obtaining Pakistani identity papers “illegally”.

In 2015, Pakistani media reported that the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) had canceled Gula’s Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC). Reports claimed the cards had been issued illegally.
On 26 October 2016, the Federal Investigation Agency arrested Gulla for living in Pakistan with forged documents and she was sentenced to fifteen days in detention for fraudulent identity papers and deported to Afghanistan, and the decision was criticized by Amnesty International.
In 2016, Gulla and her children received a warm welcome from ex-president Ashraf Ghani at the presidential palace. And later, Sharbat Gulla was given a 3,000-square-foot (280 m2) residence in Kabul for her and her children. 

More than 30 years later, Gulla is displaced once again — as Afghanistan reels from conflict and instability after the hurried withdrawal of U.S. troops and the Taliban takeover in August.
Thousands of Afghans evacuated to the US, Uk, Pakistan, and many other countries. In early September, Italy said that it had evacuated almost 5,000 Afghans from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power in August, including Sharbat Gulla.
The Italian government said in a statement that the National Geographic magazine’s famed green-eyed “Afghan Girl” has arrived in Italy, without mentioning the date. It added that she had come to “symbolize the vicissitudes and conflict of the chapter in history that Afghanistan and its people were going through at the time.”

Her landing in a developed, civilized and progressive European state Italy, couldn’t be considered an end to miseries of Gula’s but at least it is a ray of hope which will be reduce the hardships. Almost families and communities of Afghanistan have been disintegrated- which might be detrimental to the very interests of Afghanistan possessed with over five thousand years old history.

If we look at the 10-year-old and recent picture together, the two images seem to represent the failure of repeated invasions by foreign powers in Afghanistan, making it one of the most unstable areas on the planet.

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