The Soviet-Afghan War was a conflict that has up till now reverberated through history. It moulded and formed the basis upon which the Afghanistan of the present banks upon.
The Mujahideen had always been portrayed during the course of the war as awe-inducing nationalists who had taken up arms against the hedonism of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, they were the bane the Afghans had been trying to avoid.
In that very same conundrum, the ironic face of suffering, Sharbat Gula, found acclaim as the fodder for Western media’s depiction of the conflict. To think that the entirety of the world stood still as America backed Mujahid forces captured the Afghan hinterland, is delirious, to say the least.
However, to put matters into perspective, it should be through the eyes of the “Green-Eyed” Afghan girl that we note a journey of such adversity.
How Did Sharbat Gula Attain International Fame?
As the war between the Soviet Union and the guerilla Mujahideen fighters raged beyond and through the hinterland of Afghanistan, many civilians found themselves without shelter or a place to call home.
Unfortunately, the authorities realized nothing and the infernal flames of warfare took over one district after another. The American government alongside its NATO allies and China kept providing the Mujahid forces with arms of qualities unparalleled.
To put matters into perspective, the entire conflict led to a constant sense of threat all along the Afghan country. Both the Soviet Union and the rebels kept committing to the offensive as fear became their weapon of choice. Massacres upon massacres of the common citizenry alongside wanton rape and destruction had become the norm.
Among these villagers, a green-eyed 12-year-old girl found refuge in a certain refugee camp, much like others. However, it was her expressive eyes that found recluse in the international sphere. These eyes expressed the anguish of the ages as the suffering brushed against global sensibilities.
As US photographer, Steve McCurry, took the picture of Gula in 1985, she was still an adolescent of 12, however, it was right then that we were provided with a vision into the plight of the Afghans.
The picture found release in a National Geographic magazine however, her identity was yet not known. It was on McCurry’s second visit that he tracked her down to note her identity. Gula’s contribution to the state of Afghanistan can be best described with former President, Ashraf Ghani’s statement;
“As a child, she captured the hearts of millions because she was the symbol of displacement. The enormous beauty, the enormous energy that she projected from her face captured hearts and became one of the most famous photographs of the 1980s and up until the 1990s.”
How Did She Get Refuge In Italy?
Gula’s life during Afghanistan’s wonky transition into a democratic republic had turned fairly strange, to say the least. She had found herself in a strange state as she was found illegally living in Pakistan, having left Afghanistan, in 2016.
She was arrested and placed before a court in Peshawar for purchasing an illegal identity card. However, after this incident, it was adjudged by the court that she would be deported back to her place of origin. Coupled with that she had to spend 15 days in jail and submit a fine of 110,000 Pakistani Rupee.
Upon being deported back, her strife to normalcy would be short-lived as the Afghan Taliban forces took over the country within a space of a few years. Gula, now a woman of 40, with four children and widowed, appealed to the Italian government to help her escape the Taliban and its government.
The Italian government had spearheaded refugee welfare in the country and had imbibed upon itself the duty of evacuating civilians to safety.
Thus, with the Italian Government in tow, she found solace, having been promised to be provided with necessary assistance required to accommodate herself with regular life in the country.
The Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, recognized the country’s service to the Afghan people and also, to such an icon of Gula’s stature who explained an entire era’s suffering in a singular picture. He said that the 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”.
Gula deserves some rest now for one cannot spend an entire lifetime running away from their oppressors. A moment of respite is necessary.
Image Source: Google Images
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