An Afghan girl with haunting green eyes pictured on a famous 1985 cover of National Geographic magazine has been arrested in Pakistan for cheating.
Sharbat Gula, whose iconic image by photographer Steve McCurry earned her the title of “Mona Lisa of the Afghan war,” was taken into custody from her home in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, according to Tribune News Service reports.
Gula was charged with obtaining Pakistani identity by allegedly forging documents and could face up to seven years in jail, Pakistani authority Tahir Khan said.
The Federal Investigation Agency, which deals with forgery cases, confirmed the arrest.
“Our team together with police raided her house and recovered both Pakistani and Afghan IDs,” FIA director Imran Shahid told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Gula’s family fled to Pakistan with thousands of Afghan families when Soviet Russian forces invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
McCurry photographed her in December 1984, when she was 12 and a refugee in an Afghanistan-Pakistan border camp.
The photo, on National Geographic in June 1985, was widely used in publicizing the plight of refugees. (Sadly, things haven’t changed much around the world.)
McCurry, who did not know her name and tried to trace her, finally found her 17 years later, in 2002, in Peshawar.
“The instant I saw her I knew it was the same girl,” McCurry told the Washington Post in 2002. “There’s such a complexity of emotions going on in her face in that first photograph.”
With permission from her husband, baker Ramat Gul, Gula removed her burka so McCurry could take another portrait, her face still mirroring the hardships of her country’s two decades of conflict.
Last year, Pakistan began a crackdown on Afghan refugees trying to obtain Pakistani nationality with false documents.
Pakistan has said it plans to send the estimated 2.5 million refugees back to Afghanistan as they have become an “unbearable” burden on the economy.
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— Staff, wire reports