27 years after her piercing green eyes gripped the world, ‘Afghan girl’ starts new life in Italy

An Afghan woman who achieved international recognition after a striking photograph of her was featured on the cover of National Geographic is starting a new life in Italy.

Sharbat Gulla was 12 years old when war photographer Steve McCurry took her photograph in a refugee camp in 1984 – her piercing green eyes staring into the lens.

Italy’s prime minister, Mario Draghi, says the country organised her evacuation after she asked for help in leaving Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover.

Ms Gulla will now receive help to help her integrate into Italian life.

In 2014, she surfaced in Pakistan but was forced to go into hiding after she was accused of buying a fake identity card.

She was deported and flown to Kabul, where then president Ashraf Ghani hosted a reception and handed her keys to a new apartment.

Italy was one of several Western countries that airlifted hundreds of Afghans out of the country following the departure of US forces in August.

Mr Draghi said Ms Gulla’s photograph had come to “symbolise the vicissitudes and conflict of the chapter in history that Afghanistan and its people were going through at the time”.

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