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ROME (AP) – The famous green-eyed “Afghan Girl” from National Geographic magazine arrived in Italy as part of the evacuation of Afghans by the West following the takeover of the country by the Taliban, a the Italian government announced Thursday.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office said Italy organized the evacuation of Sharbat Gulla after she asked for help to leave the country. The Italian government will now help him integrate into life in Italy, the statement said.

Gulla gained international fame in 1984 as an Afghan refugee, after a photograph of her by war photographer Steve McCurry, with piercing green eyes, was published on the cover of National Geographic. McCurry found her in 2002.

In 2014, she surfaced in Pakistan but went into hiding when authorities accused her of purchasing a fake Pakistani ID card and ordered her deportation. She was flown to Kabul where the president hosted a reception for her at the presidential palace and handed her the keys to a new apartment.

In this October 26, 2016 file photo, Pakistani Inam Khan shows a copy of a magazine with the photograph of Afghan refugee Sharbat Gulla, from his rare collection in Islamabad, Pakistan.

AP Photo / BK Bangash, File

Italy was one of many Western countries that airlifted hundreds of Afghans out of the country after US forces left and the Taliban took control in August.

In a statement announcing Gulla’s arrival in Rome, Draghi’s office said his photograph had come “to symbolize the vicissitudes and conflict of the chapter of history that Afghanistan and its people were going through at the time.”

He said he had received requests “from members of civil society, and in particular non-profit organizations working in Afghanistan,” supporting Gulla’s call for help in leaving the country.

Italy organized its trip to Italy “as part of the broader evacuation program in place for Afghan citizens and the government’s plan for their reception and integration,” the statement said.


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