The Afghan girl with strikingly green eyes featured on the cover of National Geographic in 1985 was arrested Wednesday in Pakistan for illegally obtaining national identity cards.
The iconic photo made Sharbat Gula a symbol of the conflict in Afghanistan. Now, she faces up to 14 years in prison and a fine of $3,000 to $5,000.
Gula was arrested and her house raided after a year-long investigation.
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported that two men claiming to be Gula’s sons also had IDs issued to them.
The BBC reported the three staff members who issued Gula’s IDs have been missing since the report of alleged fraud was filed.
Gula fraudulently obtained a Pakistani ID in 1988 and a computerized card in 2014 while keeping her Afghan passport, which she continued to use, according to the Times.
Pakistan has intensified its search for Afghans with illegal IDs, particularly after May when a former Taliban leader, who had traveled with forged documents, was killed in a drone strike, the Guardian reported.
Earlier this year, Pakistan extended a deadline for refugees to register with the government. The country is home to about 1.5 million registered Afghan refugees.
Photographer Steve McCurry searched for Gula, or “the Afghan girl” as she came to be known, in 2002. His 1985 photo was taken at a Pakistani refugee camp and neither Gula’s name or age were known because there were no records. McCurry photographed her again in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan.
In an email to the New York Times, McCurry said he was committed to doing anything he could to provide Gula legal and financial support.
“We object to this action by the authorities in the strongest possible terms,” he wrote. “She has suffered throughout her entire life, and we believe that her arrest is an egregious violation of her human rights.”
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