Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr McCurry added that the “dignity she showed in the picture, holding her head high and having a sense of fortitude and perseverance” had allowed Ms Gula to become a symbol of Afghanistan.
“She came to represent not just Afghan women and refugees, but Afghanistan as a country. After 40 years of conflict, the people are still fighting for peace and security,” he said.
‘The Taliban don’t want women to be visible’
Now in her late 40s, Ms Gula is the mother to several children and had been living in Afghanistan after being deported from Pakistan in 2016. She was deported after being arrested on charges of obtaining false identity documents, a common practice among Afghans in Pakistan.
She was initially given a hero’s welcome by Ashraf Ghani, the former president, including being provided with a government-funded flat. However, fears for her safety began to mount under Taliban rule.
The Taliban have imposed strict, conservative rules on women since regaining control of the country, with girls banned from attending school or playing any sports.
Heather Barr, the associate director for women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times that Ms Gula was at particular risk because of her fame. “The Taliban don’t want women to be visible, and she’s an extremely visible Afghan woman,” Ms Barr said.