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The Afghan Girl

According to Wikipedia, journalist Steve McCurry took this picture of an Afghan girl in a refugee camp in 1984. The image appeared on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic and quickly became iconic. It has been named the most recognized photograph in the history of the magazine and the cover is one of the most famous of National Geographic.

The picture became a symbol of the Afghan conflict in the 1980s, when the Soviets waged their war there, and when the U.S. armed the mujahedeen – a group from which indirectly Osama bin Laden eventually arose.

She was known only at the Afghan Girl. Nobody, including McCurry knew her name. Since Afghanistan remained closed to the Western world until the Taliban was finally removed by the Americans in 2001, any of McCurry’s attempts to find and identify her remained unsuccessful, even though a number of women came forward, falsely, and a number of men claimed she was their wife.

Eventually she was located in 2002 when she was around thirty years old, in a remote region of Afghanistan. Her name was Sharbat Gula and her identity was confirmed using iris recognition. She vividly recalled being photographed. She had been photographed on only three occasions: in 1984 and during the search for her when a National Geographic producer took the identifying pictures that led to the reunion with Steve McCurry. She had never seen her famous portrait before until they showed it to her in January 2002.

Here are her pictures in 2002:

Gula

[photo by Steve McCurry]

And with her family:

Gula with Family

[photo by Steve McCurry]

Check out this article in National Geographic for more detail on the story and more pictures.

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