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Afghanistan Ambassador to Pakistan calls on PM Nawaz Sharif to free Nat Geo’s famed ‘Afghan Girl’ Sharbat Gula

The Nat Geo photographer who shot Sharbat Gula as a girl tracked her down in Pakistan refugee camps

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Pakistan Custody
Pakistan's Inam Khan, owner of a book shop shows a copy of a magazine with the photograph of Afghan refugee woman Sharbat Gulla, from his rare collection in Islamabad, Pakistan, Oct. 26, 2016. VOA
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Afganistan, Nov 2, 2016: Expressing disappointment at the rejection of bail to Nat Geo’s famed “Afghan Girl” Sharbat Gula, the Afghanistan ambassador to Pakistan on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to intervene in the case for her release, the media reported.

“It is with utmost disappointment that despite assurances given by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and other government leaders, the bail to free Sharbat Gula from incarceration in Peshawar was rejected today,” Dawn quoted Ambassador Omer Zakhilwal as saying.

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[bctt tweet=”Known as the “Afghan Girl”, the green-eyed Gula famously featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine .” username=””]

He said the arrest of Gula, known for “one of the world’s most recognised and Afghanistan’s most beloved image”, had already hurt feelings of all Afghans, and Wednesday’s ruling was a further disregard to those feelings and the bilateral people-to-people relations and the “winning of hearts and minds” that the two countries claim to be important.

“At this stage I call on the honourable Prime Minister of Pakistan, to whom I will also send a formal request, to intervene in this case himself to instruct the release of Sharbat Gula,” the envoy said.

He said the Afghan woman was arrested on charges laid against her by a federal agency, hence the government has the authority to withdraw those charges and set her free because “it would certainly be the right thing to do”.

He said despite being famous across the world, Gula is a poor widow and the sole breadwinner of her family, comprising four children. She is suffering from hepatitis, which also claimed the lives of her husband and eldest daughter in the recent past, he said.

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The envoy said the Afghan government is ready to facilitate Gula as well as her children’s repatriation back to Afghanistan “with dignity”, and support her in resettling there.

Known as the “Afghan Girl”, the green-eyed Gula famously featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine and became a symbol of uncertain future of her country’s war-ravaged people when photographed as a young, teenaged girl.

Years later, the Nat Geo photographer who shot her as a girl tracked Gula down in Pakistan refugee camps. An unnamed celebrity for years, her striking eyes peered out from under a headscarf with a mixture of suffering and pain, and now determination. (IANS)

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‘World’s Most Dangerous City’ Mogadishu in Somalia Holds Nighttime Soccer Match for the first time in 30 Years

Since the collapse of Somalia's central military government in 1991, Somalia sports have lacked an infrastructure, and athletes have been threatened by radical militants

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People gather for the soccer match between Hodan and Waberi districts, Mogadishu's first night game in 30 years, at Konis Stadium in Modadishu, Somalia (VOA)

Somalia, September 12, 2017 : For the first time in more than 30 years, thousands of residents and fans watched a nighttime soccer match in Mogadishu, often described as the world’s most dangerous capital.

Thousands of fans enjoyed the event at Konis Stadium, which the international soccer organization FIFA recently renovated.

Although the match, the final of a citywide club tournament for 16- to 18-year-olds, took place under tight security, it was historic for the city, which has dealt with terrorist suicide bombings and anarchy.

After the match, in which Waberi beat Hodan 3-0, Mogadishu Mayor Tabit Abdi Mohamed said the city’s residents deserve security — and more than a nighttime soccer game.

“Tonight is clearly a historic night that our people, the people of this city, waited for for more than 30 years. I reaffirm that Mogadishu is secure and people deserve more than this,” Mohamed said. “You deserve every kind of entertainment and sports that people in other world capital cities get.”

Hassan Wish, the chairman of Mogadishu’s sports activities who organized the tournament, said they decided to hold the nighttime game to send a message that Mogadishu is on the road to betterment.

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Football players from Hodan district (orange) and Waberi district (yellow) play in the first nighttime game in 30 years in Modadishu, Somalia (VOA)

“To publicize and make it a significant signal to the city’s returning security, the match was held at a nighttime. It was broadcast live on several local television channels,” Wish said. “The city is back on its way to good old days.”

Stadium now a military base

The Somali Football Federation said the Friday night game in Mogadishu took the country back to 1988, when night games were played at the city’s main Mogadishu stadium. The stadium has been and remains a military base for African Union peacekeepers, which drove al-Shabab militants out of the city in 2011.

“We hope this will be the first of similar peaceful matches in our city. It is not the first for Mogadishu, but for me, I have never seen in my life a soccer game being played at night in Mogadishu,” said Dahir Osman, a 20-year-old resident. “I was born in a lawless capital and grew up all these years without witnessing such a hope-reviving event.”

The seaside capital is working to lose the label of “the world’s most dangerous city.”

The name was attached to the city after the collapse of the former central government in 1992, when a famine struck Somalia and political jockeying began. That led to a civil war and deadly armed violence spearheaded by clan warlords who entered the city.

Last month, popular Somali referee Osman Jama Dirah was shot to death near his home in the city.

“The city is enjoying a reviving peace, except for the infrequent al-Shabab terrorist attacks. Now, playing a soccer game at night means the city is rearing its beautiful head again,” said Aden Osman, a 58-year-old resident who has never left Mogadishu.

Somalia
Somali security forces patrol during the soccer match between the Hodan and Waberi districts at Konis Stadium, renovated by FIFA, in Modadishu, Somalia, Sept. 8, 2017. It was the city’s first night game in 30 years. (VOA)

“I was born in this city and still live here. I have witnessed the best and the worst times of the city. But now, I see a reviving hope on the horizon,” Osman said.

Residents return

Thousands of Somalis from the diaspora have been returning to Mogadishu over the past three years, opening new, Western-style restaurants along the beach. The buildings that have been destroyed by the bullets and mortars are now being rebuilt.

Many U.N. workers, who had been operating from Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya, are moving back to the city, and some foreign embassies have reopened.

Since the collapse of Somalia’s central military government in 1991, Somalia sports have lacked an infrastructure, and athletes have been threatened by radical militants.

ALSO READ In Somalia, Rape is a Common Sight: Labeled as Worst Country for Women

In 2006, the Islamic Courts Union, which controlled large swaths of the country’s south and central regions, which include Mogadishu, prohibited women from playing sports, especially basketball, labeling it as a “satanic act” against the principles of Islam.

The group also put restrictions on men and banned watching international soccer matches from televisions and designated cinemas, saying the men should spend their time on their religious responsibilities. (VOA)