The Girl With the Haunting Green Eyes
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?
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.