Pakistan officials said on Wednesday that the Afghan woman known for a famous National Geographic magazine cover, was deported to her native country.
The green-eyed Afghan girl, Sharbat Gulla, who became a symbol of her country’s war because of a 1985 cover photo, was found guilty on charges of using fraudulent identity papers.
Officials say she and her four children crossed the border around 2:30 a.m. after being discharged from a hospital where she was treated for Hepatitis C.
Fayaz Khan, a local government official, said Gulla was “unhappy,” adding that she looked back to Pakistani territory and hoped for good wishes to the people living in Pakistan.
“Afghanistan is only my birthplace, but Pakistan was my homeland and I always considered it as my own country,” she told AFP last week, adding she was “heartbroken” by the court’s decision.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the woman and said the government would provide Gulla with a furnished apartment to ensure she "lives with dignity and security in her homeland".
"I welcome her back to the bosom of her motherland," Ghani said with Gulla standing beside him during a small welcoming ceremony in Kabul.
"I've said repeatedly, and I like to repeat it again, that our country is incomplete until we absorb all of our refugees."
Gulla, however, did not comment after the president’s remarks.
Arrested for phony documents
She was arrested in October on charges of carrying phony documents while living in Pakistan.
For many years, Gulla was an unnamed figure that was immortalized after her photo was featured on National Geographic and became the symbol of Afghanistan's suffering during the 1980s Soviet occupation and U.S.-backed mujahadeen insurgency against it.
"The woman who stands next to me became an iconic figure representing Afghan deprivation, Afghan hope and Afghan aspirations," Ghani said. "All of us are inspired by her courage and determination."