Sharbat Gula, commonly known as the “green eyed girl” due to her alluring eyes that featured on the National Geographic cover in 1984, was arrested on the charges of fraud due to her possession of a fake ID that granted her residency in Pakistan.
Upon her arrest on the 26th October, she faced up to 14 years in jail for the offence she committed and was denied bail, living in jail ever since her arrest. Her bail plea was denied on the basis that she was arrested whilst in possession of the fake ID, presenting overwhelming evidence that she did indeed commit fraud. However, she was transferred from jail to the Lady Reading hospital in Peshawar afterwards due to health reasons, as she has Hepatitis C and high blood pressure.
During her trial that followed, she pleaded guilty to the possession of fake identification in a north-western Pakistan court, receiving a sentence of 15 days in jail and a fine of 110,000 rupees (USD$1050). She continued to stay in the same hospital as part of her short prison sentence.
Her lenient sentence is undoubtedly due to significant efforts by the Afghan government who actively campaigned for her release following her arrest, using her fame as the international symbol for refugees and her ill health as leverage.
The arrest of Sharbat Gula, one of the world’s most recognised and Afghanistan’s most beloved image had already hurt feelings of all Afghans
The Afghan ambassador to Pakistan stated that “The arrest of Sharbat Gula, one of the world’s most recognised and Afghanistan’s most beloved image had already hurt feelings of all Afghans”, placing diplomatic pressure on the Pakistan government that has also received backlash from the international community as a result of Sharbat Gula’s arrest, tarnishing their image of being a generous host to Afghan refugees.
Her arrest is a part of the major crackdown on Afghan refugees who have committed the same offence, triggered by deteriorating relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Following her release, Gula was deported from Pakistan, but was welcomed back to Afghanistan with open arms, as part of President Ashraf Ghani’s policy of encouraging the return of Afghan refugees.
Therefore, similarly to how her poignant image came to represent the plight of the Afghans who were forced out of their country by the Soviet occupation, she now she finds herself again to be the symbol for the hardships experienced by the Afghan refugees – being oneof the 200,000 Afghan refugees expelled from Pakistan despite genuinely possessing a deep-rooted sense of belonging to her adopted country.
Afghanistan is only my birthplace, but Pakistan was my homeland and I always considered it as my own country
She said “Afghanistan is only my birthplace, but Pakistan was my homeland and I always considered it as my own country”. Her statement reflects the sentiment of the millions of Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, making her such a relatable figure, and a hero in the eyes of many due to the suffering that she has had to endure.