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'Afghan girl' from famous National Geographic cover is given refuge in Italy

Sharbat Gula, the subject of a 1985 National Geographic cover photo, has been evacuated to Rome following requests from groups working in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.
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Sharbat Gula, famously known as the green-eyed “Afghan Girl” from National Geographic's 1985 magazine cover, has received refuge in Italy amid efforts to evacuate Afghans after the Taliban took over the country three months ago when the U.S. withdrew its remaining troops from Afghanistan.

Italy organized Gula's evacuation in response to requests made by nonprofit organizations that have been working in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover in August and "have supported Sharbat Gula in her plea for help to leave her country," the Italian government said in a statement Thursday.

Gula is now in the city of Rome, according to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. The Italian government will help to get her integrated into life in Italy, the statement said.

Ashraf Ghani,Sharbat Gulla
Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, meets with National Geographic's famed green-eyed "Afghan Girl" Sharbat Gulla in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 9, 2016.Rahmat Gul / AP file

The woman came to international renown after war photographer Steve McCurry photographed her when she was a young girl in a refugee camp nearly four decades ago, capturing her piercing green eyes. McCurry photographed her again in 2002.

"She went on to symbolize the vicissitudes and conflict of the chapter in history that Afghanistan and its people were going through at the time," the Presidency of the Council of Ministers said in a statement.

In 2014, Gula surfaced in Pakistan but went into hiding when authorities accused her of buying a fake Pakistani identification card and ordered her deported. She was flown to Kabul where the president hosted a reception for her at the presidential palace and handed her keys to a new apartment.

Italy is one of several Western countries that have airlifted hundreds of Afghans out of the country following the departure of U.S. military forces and the Taliban takeover.

Gula's travel to Italy is “part of the wider evacuation program in place for Afghan citizens and the government’s plan for their reception and integration,” the European nation added.