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The Girl With the Haunting Green Eyes

Updated on May 30, 2013
June 1985 National Geographic  The Girl With the Haunting Green Eyes
June 1985 National Geographic The Girl With the Haunting Green Eyes | Source

Her name is Sharbat Gula.

In her native Pashtu tongue, the name means sweetwater flower girl.

Since her lovely yet apprehensive face graced the cover of National Geographic twenty-seven years ago, she has been more familiarly known as the Afghan girl with the haunting green eyes.

How did this iconic image of global renown ever come about?

In 1984,National Geographic photographer, Steve McCurry, was a member of a team of journalists covering the war between the Soviet Union--who sought to maintain Marxist rule in Afghanistan--and local Islamic guerrilla warriors known as mujahideen.

To escape the fighting, hordes of refugees were attempting to make their way over the border into Pakistan.

McCurry came upon a large tent in the refugee camp that served as a girls' school. As fate would have it, he encountered the pretty young girl with the charismatic yet anxiety-ridden look and asked if she would let him take her picture. She agreed, and the rest is history.

Naturally, McCurry had no idea at the time that the photo would create such a maelstrom of public interest and curiosity.

Back home, the editorial team chose to feature a close-up of the young girl on the cover magazine. Her sea-green eyes, accentuated with streaks of blue and maize, and her beautiful face, framed by a tattered burgundy shawl, symbolized the universal dichotomy of strength and terror in the midst of international conflict.

No one except those closest to her knew anything about Sharbut Gula.

But millions all over the world soon come to know her as the girl with the haunting green eyes...

Prior to reading this article, had you ever heard of the Afghan Girl?

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In my occupation as an eBay seller of vintage ephemera, postcards, magazines, prints, articles, and ads, I have literally pored over thousands of written materials and images.

I can honestly say that I have never had the sensation of being that proverbial deer caught in the headlights until I came across this moving periodical cover not just once, but twice, in the last four months.

Both events happened to be estate sales where I came upon a plethora of vintage magazines just begging--like cute, lonesome puppies at the humane society--for someone to rescue them.

I've recently become a sucker for older magazines, especially when I'm able to negotiate bargain lot prices that are easy on my billfold.

At the first estate sale, I was offered my pick of any National Geographic , post-1960, for 10 cents an issue. While the offer was most generous, I wasn't too keen about hauling away the thousands of magazines the woman desperately sought to eradicate from her brother's home.

But that all changed when I came upon the literary diamond in the rough . Hardly able to contain myself, I beckoned my wife to come over. In a barely audible whisper, mostly because I was choking in my excitement, I pointed at the cover.

"It's her! It's that Afghan girl!"

My wife had no clue...

Fast-forward four and a half months later...this morning...I woke her up and told her that the magazine I'd bought for a dime sold to a man in Australia for $24.75. Even after the eBay, PayPal, and shipping fees, I made over twenty dollars in profit.

Last weekend, I went to another estate sale in Waitsburg, a small country town in southeastern Washington state. I bought about two hundred magazines for twenty dollars, many of which were National Geographics .

I didn't find out until the next day, while sorting the magazines, that a NEAR MINT copy of the Afghan girl issue was in the bunch.

As a result of doing research about online selling strategies on YouTube, I decided to list my item on Amazon. Lo and behold! While the majority of the issues were being sold for anywhere between $2 and $9.99, one person was selling his Very Good copy for a little over sixty dollars. In yet another listing, an enterprising book dealer was actually selling his Like New copy for $150!

So, naturally, I manned up and listed my Near Mint issue for $75.

Sometimes, I truly don't know what I'm doing. Sometimes, I even play the fool.

One thing's for sure...I'm not in kindergarten anymore, and I refuse to play in the sandbox.

These days, I'm inclined to think--and act --outside the box.

That's what Steve McCurry did when he risked venturing into the large tent of the Islamic girls' school on that fateful day in 1984.

That's what Sharbat Gula did when she boldly stepped away from Muslim tradition and let her facial veil drop.

And we as a global village, blessed beneficiaries of those haunting green eyes, can certainly pause to reflect on the insanity of war.

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  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @naimishika

    Thanks for stopping by and reading my Hub. I read your profile and was amazed at your prolific writing as well as your many other activities, such as acting. Were you involved at all in that big Indian hit, Slumdog Millionaire? Just curious! Keep up the great work on HubPages!

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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @Teresa_Schultz

    Thanks for the heads up, Teresa! Yeah, I like how when you hover over each image, a paragraph appears giving you great detailed information about the illustration. Good find! I really appreciate you sharing the information about that site. Cheers!

  • Teresa Schultz profile image

    Teresa Schultz 5 years ago from East London, in South Africa

    You're welcome - and thank you too, for being such a great hubber! On that site for the images, I think you may like to do a search on it for "advert" - no "s" as in adverts, just "advert." :)

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @kelitad Thank you very much for sharing your personal connection to that NG issue. I think it's wonderful that you remembered your first encounter with that magazine at the age of 4-1/2. That's amazing! Best wishes to you for continued perseverance and success here on HubPages! Aloha!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @Teresa_Schultz

    Hey! Thanks so much for the uplifting comments. And I really appreciate the heads up on both the movie, "The Bang Bang Club," and the photo website. The latter will be a huge help on days when I have a brainlock on images I can use to dress up my writing. Thanks so much for your kindness.

    Yes, the Afghan woman holds a special place in my heart. She is most likely still unaware of how her iconic image inspired millions of women (and men, for that matter) to persevere in the midst of physically, mentally, and spiritually excruciating circumstances. Thanks for being a great contributor to the HubPages community, Teresa!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @sydneyspence

    I'm honored that you read my article and found merit in it. I love your writing and your home business niche. See, you're the kind of person whose "street savvy" entrepreneurial smarts I could tap into for hours at a coffee shop. Lacking that opportunity, I will be following you on HubPages for a long time to come and gleaning valuable business tidbits from you. Thanks so much!

  • sydneyspence profile image

    Sydney Spence 5 years ago from Austin Texas

    Such a moving hub ~ thank you

  • Teresa Schultz profile image

    Teresa Schultz 5 years ago from East London, in South Africa

    This was a very interesting hub indeed! (voted up, interesting and shared with my HubPages followers) - not just because this is probably my second or third favorite image (the Afghan girl with the haunting green eyes - isn't she just stunning?) but because my brother (onlder than myself by 11 years) was interested in the National Geographic magazine for many years (and not too long ago, perhaps about 7 or 8 years ago) I remember our family having quite a few National Geographic magazines - perhaps my brother still has a few, I must ask him) - and I'm sure we had this one (in great condition) with the Afghan girl on the front cover. Had no idea there was money in having these old National Geographic magazines - well this particular one, anyway.

    For interests' sake, my favorite image is of the starving child and vulture, taken by South African photojournalist Kevin Carter. Although not all about that photo, if you haven't yet seen the movie The Bang Bang Club, it's a must see!

    Also for your interest, you may be interested in having a look at the site totallyfreeimages (dot com) - take note of the line of wording just beneath the title if you visit the site.

  • kelitad profile image

    kelitad 5 years ago from Norwalk, Iowa

    I was four and a half when that m particular month was published, and we had just come back from being overseas (my father was an officer in the USMC). I remember seeing that magazine in someone's hands on the flight back to the States and the girl haunted me then.

    Very nice article!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @WhydThatHappen

    Yes, I agree with you about the world being funny like that...which makes your pen name so very appropriate. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to checking out more of your good writing as well.

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    WhydThatHappen 5 years ago

    When they did the follow up of her, she had definitely aged and still had haunting green eyes, but after 20+ years of worldwide fame- she had no idea she was famous and still living in poverty! It's amazing how the world works sometimes

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you so much, Barbara Kay! Will be heartily enjoying your writing shortly and sharing with others accordingly. Best wishes and continued success here on HubPages!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thanks so much! Will be checking out your work shortly and sharing with others. I'm proud of this wonderful community of outstanding writers! Aloha!

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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Wow! Thanks for the great feedback! Angela's onto something here. I wish all of us well! I will be sharing your terrific work with others in about ten minutes. Blessings!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Thank you, and I've reciprocated! Great idea, Angela!

  • Barbara Kay profile image

    Barbara Badder 5 years ago from USA

    I enjoyed reading this and will share. The girl is beautiful and somehow we can all commiserate with the feeling she had.

  • bdegiulio profile image

    Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

    I remember this issue of NG well. It is an amazing story. I don't think I'll ever forget those green eyes. Thanks for sharing. Voting up and Sharing.

  • kashmir56 profile image

    Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

    Hi hawaiianodysseus,yes i do remember that cover and girl,enjoyed your well written hub. It is always nice when you find that gem among trash,well done !

    Vote up and more !!!

  • Angela Brummer profile image

    Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

    These eyes are truly haunting! But, yet she looks so innocent and frightened, and she is simply beautiful. A very puzzling picture.

    This article has been shared on Stumble, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Reddit and my hub following.

    Via: http://angelabrummer.hubpages.com/hub/Hubber-Alert

    If you can share mine: Margarita pedicure and Corn hole, It would be appreciated. And feel free to contact the others and the list to share article sharing!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
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    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hey, thanks for the aloha poke! LOL! Are you currently a Hawaii resident or from there and now living in the mainland? Glad to have you on board. I am reciprocating and following you; maybe we can build a Hawaiian Hubpages Ohana! : ) Blessings and best wishes! So good to hear from you! Please, by all means, keep in touch!

  • Hawaiian Scribe profile image

    Stephanie Launiu 5 years ago from Hawai'i

    I love your writing! I'm new to Hubbing & was poking around and found you! I will be following you (not stalking, just following). I do remember this Afghan girl National Geographic, and I did see the documentary on TV about the followup to find her. Yes, the insanity of war. Aloha!