Steve McCurry, who famously photographed the green-eyed Afghan girl in the 1980s, speaks to Al Jazeera about her plight.
Pakistan has deported Sharbat Gula, the “green-eyed Afghan girl” in the renowned 1985 National Geographic photo, for using fraudulent identity documents, according to officials.
Police escorted Gula on Tuesday from a Peshawar hospital, where she had been staying since her arrest last month for living illegally in Pakistan.
Gula, who had become the symbol of her country’s wars, was handed over to Afghan authorities at the Torkham border.
Gula’s deportation comes amid Pakistani pressure to send 2.5 million Afghan refugees back home even though Afghanistan is facing a struggle with Taliban fighters in the country.
“We took Sharbat Gula from the hospital in a convoy and delivered her to the Afghan border authorities at Torkham,” said a senior Pakistani security official told Reuters news agency.
Speaking to the AFP news agency last week, Gula said she was “heartbroken” at the prospect of returning.
“Afghanistan is only my birthplace, but Pakistan was my homeland and I always considered it as my own country,” she said.
“I had decided to live and die in Pakistan but they did the worst thing with me. It’s not my fault that I born there [in Afghanistan]. I am dejected. I have no other option but to leave.”
Gula said she first arrived in Pakistan an orphan, some four or five years after the Soviet invasion of 1979, one of millions of Afghans who have sought refuge over the border since.
She is expected to be flown back to Kabul later on Wednesday, where President Ashraf Ghani would host a function in her honour and her four children are expected to follow her shortly.
Public billboards were already up welcoming her back home.
Gula was for years an unnamed celebrity after an image of her as a teenage Afghan refugee was featured on National Geographic magazine’s cover in 1985, her striking green eyes peering out from a headscarf with a mixture of ferocity and pain.
The image became a symbol of Afghanistan’s suffering during the 1980s Soviet occupation and US-backed armed struggle against it.
The Soviet withdrawal in 1989 led to the collapse of the Kabul government and years of civil war until the Taliban movement seized power in the mid-1990s.
After the Taliban government fell to the US-backed military action in 2001, National Geographic sent photographer Steve McCurry to find the girl in the photo, eventually identified as Gula.