Afghan girl from the iconic National Geographic front page evacuated to Italy

An Afghan woman who became internationally famous after appearing on the cover of a 1984 issue of National Geographic has been evacuated to Italy, the country’s prime minister’s office said on Thursday.

Sharbat Gulla, the woman behind the iconic photo taken by photographer Steve McCurry, arrived in Italy after a push “from those in civil society, and especially from non-profit organizations working in Afghanistan” to evacuate her from the country, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghis office said in a statement, the Associated Press reported.

Gulla sought help to leave Afghanistan as the nation now struggles with the Taliban regime following the collapse of its previous government.

Draghi’s office said in its statement that Gulla’s evacuation was “part of the broader evacuation program in place for Afghan citizens and the government’s plan for their reception and integration” in Italy, according to the AP.

Gulla was 12 years old and living in a refugee camp when McCurry took her picture. The image showing her staring at the camera with piercing green eyes became one of the most famous National Geographic front pages ever.

The AP’s reporting detailed only a small number of times where it appeared that Gulla’s whereabouts were known. The news media reported that McCurry in 2002 saw the Afghan woman again. Over a decade later, she was deported from Pakistan after the Pakistani government claimed she was trying to obtain false identification in the country.

The evacuation of Gulla, which joins other Afghans who have fled the country in recent months, indicates the chaotic and lasting impact of a country whose fate changed dramatically in the wake of the removal of US troops and the resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan.

Major cities and provincial capitals were quickly occupied by the Taliban when the United States withdrew its troops from the area in August.

Countries are cautious about avoiding officially recognizing the Taliban as the leader of Afghanistan, and some officials are concerned that the results achieved over the last 20 years, especially for women’s rights, will be erased again.

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