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‘Afghan Girl’ Goes from Nat Geo Cover to Police Mugshot


NGM Cover, June 1985

The woman known as “Afghan Girl” has been arrested in Pakistan for using a fake identity card and living in the country illegally.

46-year-old Sharbat Gulla (also known as Sharbat Bibi) became internationally famous as a young girl after being discovered by photographer Steve McCurry at a refugee camp back in 1984. His portrait of her graced the yellow-bordered cover of the magazine in June 1985 and became one of the most recognizable covers in the history of the magazine.

Dawn reports that Gulla, a citizen of Afghanistan, was arrested by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) today for using fake documents to obtain a Pakistani identification card under the name “Sharbat Bibi.” After arresting Gulla, FIA authorities shot a portrait of her as an official mugshot.

Sharbat Bibi's mugshot while in the custody of FIA Peshawar. Photo by FIA.
Sharbat Gulla’s mugshot while in the custody of FIA Peshawar. Photo by FIA.

Gulla faces 7 to 14 years in jail and a fine of up to $5,000 if she’s found guilty for fraud by the courts.

Investigators are also looking at government officials and their role in issuing identity cards to foreigners without proper papers.

Update on 10/27/16: Photographer Steve McCurry says that he will do everything possible to help Gulla, saying that “her arrest is an egregious violation of her human rights.”

Update on 11/9/16: Gulla has been deported from Pakistan and welcomed back into Afghanistan with open arms. President Ashraf Ghani welcomed her back “into the bosom of her motherland” and promised to provide her with a furnished apartment so she can live “with dignity and security in her homeland.” Read the full story here.

Image credits: Header images by Steve McCurry/National Geographic and NADRA