The image was first published as the cover to National Geographic’s June 1985 issue, the portrait of the unknown child in the red veil is an image so dynamic in its provocation, that it is as relevant and moving today as it was nearly 30 years ago. The Afghan Girl, without an identity or story of her own, quickly came to represent the suffering of children in war torn countries around the globe, and a symbol of the real consequences of such conflict on ordinary people. The image became the human face of conflict in the Middle East and a symbol of defiance in adversity.
In 2002, McCurry returned to Pakistan with a National Geographic television film crew to try to locate the enigmatic sitter, that had shaped both his career as a photographer, and
shaped a generation’s understanding of conflict.
When McCurry’s team arrived at the Nasir Bagh camp they found out that it was due to be demolished, but they were able to show photographs to tribal elders and camp authorities. With the help of the Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, who was from the same Pashtun tribe as the camp residents, McCurry talked to hundreds of people. He eventually found a man who knew the girl’s brother, Khashar Khan, who told him that she was in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan, where American forces had been bombing. The man agreed to help bring her and her brother across the border and this is what happened...