KEY POINTS

  • Sharbat Gula was photographed at the age of 12 in a refugee camp in Pakistan
  • She was deported to Afghanistan in 2016 after being accused of having a fake ID
  • Gula made a plea for help to leave Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover

Sharbat Gula, the "green-eyed Afghan girl" who became famous after featuring on a National Geographic cover, has been given refuge in Italy, the Italian government confirmed Thursday.

Gula, with her arresting green eyes, appeared on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic after she was photographed in a refugee camp on the Pakistan-Afghan border. She was 12 years old at the time. Her face told the story of many families torn away from their homes and forced to flee war-torn countries to find refuge elsewhere. More than three decades after the picture was clicked, Gula once again had to leave behind the life she knew in Afghanistan and move to Rome, NPR reported.

This comes around three months after the United States withdrew its troops from Afghanistan.

Italy arranged for 49-year-old Gula's evacuation after she made a plea for help to leave Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover. She will now receive assistance from the Italian government to settle into her new life, a statement from Prime Minister Mario Draghi's office said.

Gula first fled the country during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1984 and sought refuge in Pakistan. She had traveled on foot with her siblings and grandmother to reach the refugee camp in Pakistan when photographer Steve McCurry met her, according to National Geographic.

Afghan girl A famous portrait (right) by U.S. photographer Steve McCurry at an art fair in Sydney July 27, 2005 showing the iconic portrait of a young Afghan refugee named Sharbat Gula. Photo: REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

"I knew she had an incredible look, a penetrating gaze," McCurry told CNN in 2016. "But there was a crowd of people around us, the dust was swirling around, and it was before digital cameras and you never knew what would happen with the film."

"I showed it to the editor of the National Geographic, and he leaped to his feet and shouted, 'that's our next cover,'" he added.

Gula became the face of the Afghan War but nobody knew her name for years. McCurry tracked her down in 2002, and she was once again featured on the cover of National Geographic after her identity was verified.

Gula lived in Pakistan for more than 35 years as a refugee. She was accused of having a fake identification card and was arrested in 2016. She spent two weeks in a detention center before being deported to Afghanistan. The then-President Ashraf Ghani gave her a warm welcome and handed over her keys to a new apartment.

afghan girl Sharbat Gula, the green-eyed "Afghan Girl" whose 1985 photo in National Geographic became a symbol of her country's wars, arrives to meet with Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Nov. 9, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail