The Lost Afghan Girl

Sharbat Gula in 1984 at Nasir Bagh Refugee Camp, Peshawar
Sharbat Gula in 1984 at Nasir Bagh Refugee Camp, Peshawar

The above picture was taken by Steve McCurry- a photojournalist covering Afghanistan invasion of Soviet war. To date, McCurry is known best for his portrait of ‘Afghan Girl’ which is considered as one of the best 100 pictures in the world. However, as much as McCurry has won accolades and awards for his portrait for capturing the misery of this 12-year old, the girl in the picture remain oblivious of her picture becoming an international icon for the refugees.

McCurry said about this picture: “This picture summed up for me the trauma and plight, and the whole situation of suddenly having to flee your home and end up in a refugee camp, hundreds of miles away.”

After the picture was published on the cover of Time magazine titled ‘Along Afghanistan’s War-torn Frontier’, Amnesty International used this image on all their brochures, postures and calendars. However, the girl whose eyes captivated the world was out of sight for quiet long. In order to follow up his story, McCurry with the help of National Geographic decided to search for the girl and make a documentary on its quest. He finally succeeded in 2002 when he met her brother with the similar eyes.

Sharbat Gula in 1992 and 2002
Sharbat Gula in 1992 and 2002

How ironical is the fact when McCurry first photographed this 12-year old, he hardly spoke to the girl but after 17 years, he was there interviewing her and making a documentary on her. This one photo changed almost everything for the photojournalist but on the other hand, failed to comfort the misery of Sharbat Gula who has now three daughters. After the documentary, the National geographic has decided to build a trust for educating Afghan’s women but a lifetime has passed in the process.

The girl in the cover in 1984 has survived and lead a miserable life, while the journalist who used her image has gain worldwide recognition. Although the intent of McCurry might be to show the plight and divert the attention of the world towards refugees, but more than that the girl was objectified.

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