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‘Afghan Girl’ From National Geographic’s Iconic Photo Is Arrested in Pakistan

US photographer Steve McCurry poses next to his photos of the "Afghan Girl" named Sharbat Gula at the opening of the "Overwhelmed by Life" exhibition of his work at the Museum for Art and Trade in Hamburg, northern Germany on June 27, 2013.
U.S. photographer Steve McCurry poses next to his photos of the 'Afghan Girl' named Sharbat Gula at the opening of the 'Overwhelmed by Life' exhibition of his work at the Museum for Art and Trade in Hamburg, Germany, on June 27, 2013.

An Afghan refugee who appeared on the iconic June 1985 cover of National Geographic was arrested in Pakistan on Wednesday, October 26, for allegedly possessing a fraudulent Pakistani ID card, according to multiple reports.

Sharbat Gula, the subject of the famed 'Afghan Girl' photo, was taken into custody in Peshawar, a city where thousands of Afghan refugees settle, the Associated Press reported. She is being held at Peshawar's Central Jail, and could face seven to 14 years in prison if convicted for the forged identification card, according to NPR.

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Pakistani authorities told The Wall Street Journal that Gula applied for a Pakistani ID under the name Sharbat Bibi in April 2014 and was issued one. The newspaper reported that officials also filed a case against two employees from the National Database and Registration Authority, which issued the ID card.

Dawn, a Pakistani newspaper, said that two men claiming to be Gula's sons were also issued ID cards. However, a source told the publication that "they may not be her sons, but this is a common practice among Afghan refugees whereby they list names of nonrelatives as their children to obtain documents."

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In 1985, 12-year-old Gula became the subject of the most famous National Geographic cover in the magazine's history. The portrait, which highlighted her stunning green eyes and red headscarf, was taken by photojournalist Steve McCurry at the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan War.

McCurry shared a touching message on Facebook after news broke of Gula's arrest on Wednesday. "Two hours ago, I got word from a friend in Peshawar, Pakistan, that Sharbat Gula has been arrested," he wrote. "We are doing everything we can to get the facts by contacting our colleagues and friends in the area. I am committed to doing anything and everything possible to provide legal and financial support for her and her family. I object to this action by the authorities in the strongest possible terms. She has suffered throughout her entire life, and her arrest is an egregious violation of her human rights."

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According to the AP, Gula had been living in hiding to avoid arrest after authorities discovered last year that her ID was fake.

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