(Sputnik) – Sharbat Gula, who became famous worldwide on the cover of National Geographic magazine in 1985, is facing deportation or 14 years in prison in Pakistan for allegedly falsifying documents.
The Afghan woman, whose haunting green eyes were immortalized in a National Geographic cover photo when she was 12 years old, was arrested last week in Peshawar, Pakistan, for allegedly possessing a fake ID and staying illegally in Pakistan, officials said. If convicted, she could be deported or jailed for up to 14 years, according to Zia Awan, a human rights lawyer based in Karachi.
Pakistan, and the Peshawar area in particular, has been refuge for more than a million people who escaped Russia’s war with Afghanistan. But Pakistan has been forcing those refugees to leave, setting a deadline of March. But, as Afghanistan continues to be torn by violence, many are refusing to go home.
According to Human Rights Watch, since July 370,000 Afghan refugees have been repatriated. Gula was arrested last year for allegedly having a fake ID card but was later released. Currently, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Afghanistan states they would be able to assist her only if she registers as a refugee.
National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry took the famous photo of Gula in June 1985, which became a symbol of the refugees’ plight. McCurry has said he would do his best to help Gula legally and financially. “I object to this action by the authorities in the strongest possible terms. She has suffered throughout her entire life. Her arrest is an egregious violation of her human rights,” he asserted.
Originally published on Sputnik.