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World-Famous 'Afghan Girl' Just Got Arrested For Identity Fraud

She and her husband were living in Pakistan illegally, authorities say.

27/10/2016 4:05 AM AEDT | Updated 28/10/2016 2:59 AM AEDT
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The iconic National Geographic cover on the left with a photo from a Pakistan court of Sharbat Gula in Peshawar, Pakistan. 

Sharbat Gula, who appeared in the iconic “Afghan Girl” image on a National Geographic magazine cover, was arrested in Pakistan for identity fraud on Wednesday.

She now faces up to 14 years in prison and a fine of several thousand dollars, according to Agence-France Presse.

Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency had been investigating Gula since 2014 for living in Pakistan with fake ID cards as part of a nationwide crackdown on the practice. She used the name Sharbat Bibi, officials said.

“FIA along with security forces came, entered her house, searched all belongings and took important papers including $2,800,” her brother-in-law, Shahshad Khan, told Reuters. He claimed that she was living in Pakistan legally.

 
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Sharbat Gula waits for a court hearing in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Photographer Steve McCurry took her picture when she was a young refugee who had fled a Soviet-invaded Afghanistan to the Pakistan camp.

The haunting image became a symbol of the plight of refugees after National Geographic published it on its June 1985 cover. It was even compared to Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting The Mona Lisa because her green-eyed stare is so haunting. NatGeo has also made a documentary about her life called “Mona Lisa of Afghan War.”

ULRICH PERREY/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. photographer Steve McCurry beside his famous "Afghan Girl" portrait of Sharbat Gula in 2013. It's been compared to Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting The Mona Lisa because her green-eyed stare is so haunting.

McCurry went searching for her 17 years later and found her living in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora region. Her husband was already living in Peshawar, Pakistan, and working in a bakery.

“She rises before sunrise and prays. She fetches water from the stream. She cooks, cleans, does laundry,” NatGeo writer Cathy Newman said in 2002 after finding Gula for the second time. “She cares for her children; they are the center of her life.” 

There are almost 1.6 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, according to United Nations Refugee Agency data. The UNHCR plans to assist in repatriating 60,000 people to Afghanistan, but it said that many are reticent to make the journey back to their home country out of fear of losing economic stability.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have also fled toward Europe in recent months, but the European Union struck a deal earlier this month to send them home.

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