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The iconic ‘Afghan Girl’ has reportedly been arrested for ID fraud in Pakistan

national geographic

You may not know her name, but there’s a good chance you know Sharbat Gula’s face.

In December 1984, photographer Steve McCurry was visiting the Nasir Bagh refugee camp on the Afghan-Pakistan border, where he took the photograph that would turn Gula into one of the most recognizable people on Earth: The so-called “Afghan girl,” whose striking eyes peered out from the cover of National Geographic magazine in June of the following year.

Despite being one of the most recognizable people on Earth, Gula lived in anonymity until 2002, when McCurry returned to the region and reconnected with the woman whose haunting eyes had graced the cover of National Geographic 17 years prior.

Now, more than 30 years after she became an accidental global icon, Gula is in the news again—and, once more, it’s for a sad reason. She’s reportedly been arrested for ID fraud.

According to the Hindustan Times, Gula and two men claiming to be her sons were taken into custody on Wednesday by officials from Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency in the city of Peshawar, along the border with Afghanistan. The outlet reports she was in possession of a fraudulent computerized national identification card—illegal for Afghan nationals living in that country.

Speaking with Agence France-Presse, an official from Pakistan’s National Database Registration Authority said simply, “FIA arrested Sharbat Gula, an Afghan woman, today for obtaining a fake ID card.” The arrest comes amidst an ongoing effort by Pakistani authorities to address ID fraud. Officials have reportedly identified over 60,000 fake identification cards thus far.

According to the International Business Times, Gula applied for an ID under the name “Sharbat Bibi” in 2014. Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reports that she and the two men claiming to be her sons were issued computerized national ID cards last year, however the issuing agency’s vigilance department later determined information on the application forms had been faked; according to one FIA official, Gula has two daughters and an infant son, and relatives living at the address given on her form would not corroborate that the two men who applied for their cards as her sons were, in fact, family members.

Dawn reports there are approximately three million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, only half of whom are registered as such—a number seemingly corroborated by the United Nations Refugee Agency, which claims around 1.6 million Afghan refugees residing in that country.

If convicted of Fraud, Gula will reportedly face between $3,000 and $5,000 worth of fines, and a possible seven to 15 years in prison.

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