It was thought that the gods blew on creative people, who would then inhale the god's breath and have an idea. This is the premise of "inspiration": inhaling divine breath and ideas.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Sharbat Gula

The world woke up to Afghanistan’s cries of misery after the Buddha statues at Bamiyan were destroyed by the Taliban regime. Supreme Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar issued an edict against un-Islamic graven images, which means all idolatrous images of humans and animals. As a result, the Taliban were destroying all ancient sculptures. The media showed pictures where the explosives and tanks blew apart the two colossal statues of Buddha at Bamiyan. World leaders denounced the actions of Taliban and this event opened the gates to Afghanistan to journalists and media persons.

The next in line were pictures of women in burqa. They told the women journalists their story of sorrow. Taliban regime was so severe that women were mere machines. They had lost the joy which they found in everyday lives. No music, no TV and no lipsticks. They roamed around under the hot sun in long burqas with stories to tell and no one to listen to their misery.

And then there was the picture of ‘the afghan girl’. Photographer Steve McCurry was in a refugee camp in Pakisthan where he first looked at those haunting green eyes of Sharbat Gula. After obtaining permission he was allowed to take her photograph which appeared on the cover National Geographic magazine. That photograph told the untold stories of so many women in Afghanistan. One look at those eyes was sufficient. At the time of meeting, Steve McCurry says "Her look kind of summed up the horror, because her village had been bombed and her relatives had been killed, and she'd had to make this two-week trek through the mountains to the refugee camp." McCurry said he tried to find the girl years later, but the refugee camp had been disbanded. He didnt even know her name then.

That captivated stare of the afghan girl kindled the hearts of hundreds who volunteered and collected funds for the afghan women. The indignation in those eyes was markedly seen. Yet there was a sense of fearlessness. Her photograph was everywhere around the world but she had never seen it. They were on the fronts of magazines, books, label pins and even rugs but she remained ignorant of her popularity. Steve McCurry wanted to find the ‘afghan girl with the haunting green eyes’. After seventeen years, in his final search Sharbat Gula was found in a remote place in Afghanistan. It was an emotional moment for Steve McCurry. Obtaining the permission of her husband she gave an interview. The search was telecasted on the national geographic channel on March 9th 2002.

She had remembered the photographer. She was photographed again on this occasion in which she held in her hand the picture of ‘the afghan girl’.


  1. picture speaks more than a thousand words.

  2. An excellent post! Have you read "Three Cups of Tea" about Greg Mortenson and his school-building projects in Pakistan and Afghanistan?
    He concentrates on education for girls.

  3. A stirring post! The atrocities in Afghanistan since the beginnings of Taliban rule are almost beyond belief.


  4. Hello Granny Smith

    Have read a lot about Greg Mortenson and his works. Looking forward to read 'Three cups of tea'. Thank you for the comment.

    Hello Gemma,

    Thank you.

  5. I saw the documentary that he made about his search for her. It was gripping, as are both of Sharbat's photos.

  6. this was sooo good... i never knew it had been that long since the y took that picture... what a wonderful up date....

  7. Great choice of photo(s) for your post, and well done on highlighting the hardships of the people of Afghanistan.

  8. I remember this story! Thanks for the reminder!

  9. Great story about the power of a photograph and the influence photojournalism can have. I remember her picture on the cover of NG, It tugged at my heart then as it does now. Wonderful story. Well told.

  10. Amazing that the Taliban didn't kill her because of her eyes being green rather than brown...