Back in 1984, National Geographic published on their cover a photo of a young Afghan girl, Sharbat Gula, a refugee in Pakistan. She was staring at the camera with the greenest green eyes I have ever seen with an intense but wary deer-in-the-headlights stare. It was an image that no one could forget, and it became the iconic image for National Geographic. She touched something buried deep in the psyche of many men as appearing very wild and very sexy. Many of us were surprised by our own reaction. She was only 12 or 13 at the time, but she did not appear to be that young.
Years later, she was found and photographed again, only now she appeared somewhat masculine and her stare seemed angry and scary, like she would slit our throat the moment we fell asleep. In those few years, there was nothing remaining that was remotely appealing or sexy about her. Her mouth was closed, but her upper lip looked slightly collapsed as if she was missing some teeth. She was now married to a baker with three daughters. Outside of her house, she wore a full burka that even covered her eyes. No, no, don’t smile at the camera.
The shock was in our own misconceptions that fell to our feet in shards. She looked in her later photograph exactly as we should have expected a 40-ish, Afghan woman to look, a woman who could not care less about what we thought.
She was living in Pakistan and was recently arrested for possessing fake Pakistani identification papers. She could be sentenced to 15 years in prison.