After being denied bail, the Afghani refugee who donned the cover of National Geographic in the 1980s, was rushed to a local hospital in Pakistan.
In 1985, National Geographic released an unforgettable issue featuring an Afghani woman wearing a red head scarf whose unique colored eyes seemed to penetrate the soul. Now, more than 3 decades later, Sharbat Gula has been arrested and denied bail by a Pakistani court, and is reportedly suffering from hepatitis C virus (HCV).
After being denied bail on Tuesday, Gula was transferred to a local hospital, reported Nat Geo. It’s unknown if the immediate hospitalization is HCV-related.
Gula has been sitting in jail in Peshawar located in northern Pakistan since last week. She could face up to 14 years in prison for allegedly residing in Pakistan with a fraudulent national ID card, according to Nat Geo.
“The arrest of Sharbat Gula, one of the world’s most recognized and Afghanistan’s most beloved images, had already hurt feelings of all Afghans, and today’s ruling was a further disregard to those feelings and the bilateral people-to-people relations,” wrote Pakistan ambassador Omar Zakhilwal on his Facebook page, as reported by Nat Geo. “[Setting her free] would certainly be the right things to do. [The ID she had] was neither fake, nor obtained fraudulently. NADRA [Pakistan’s National Database Registration Authority] had issued the ID to her and her late husband as per its normal process years ago.”
Gula, who is an Afghani citizen, fled the war-torn country in the 1980s. Gula’s late husband reportedly passed away from HCV several years ago. Nat Geo reported that Pakistani officials have banned IDs from being issued to foreign nationals, and that 3 local officials were fired in Peshawar and are currently being investigated under the suspicion of improperly issuing IDs to Afghanis.
In a recent Instagram post, photographer Steve McCurry who first photographed Gula in a refugee camp in Pakistan, commented on the news.
“She represents all brave women and men who will endure any pain and hardship to protect the most precious thing they have — their children,” McCurry said in the report. “Sharbat Gula has been the symbol of refugees for decades. Now she has become the face of unwanted migrants”
McCurry first found Gula in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan during the time of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, but her identity remained a mystery for 17 years. In 2002, after searching for the young Afghan refugee, McCurry found her through the help of a man who lived in the camp with her as a child.