Kabul - Former Afghan refugee Sharbat Gula who obtained world fame as the “Afghan Mona Lisa” after appearing on the cover of the National Geographic magazine in 1985 was repatriated to her homeland about one and half years ago.

She is happy in Afghanistan, she said, but feels sorrow over the prevalent security incidents in her motherland.

“No doubt, I am happy here, I am glad to live in my homeland,” Gula said in an interview with Xinhua at her residence here.

Nevertheless, she said she remained concerned over the increasing security threats and endemic conflict in her country, stating softly that any hostile act could happen at any time.

Attired in a traditional old-fashioned dress and speaking in soft tone, Gula said she has four children, who all go to a school near her residence.

Seemingly older than her actual age of 43, the “Afghan Mona Lisa,” lamented that living as a refugee outside her homeland and experiencing the ups and downs in refugee camps has dulled her life.

“I spent my childhood in a refugee camp in Nasir Bagh, Pakistan, and grew up there. I married and my children grew up there. I like it as my second home, although I have experienced both ups and downs and have sweet and sour memories of my stay there,” recalled the famous Afghan widow.

She added that she dearly missed her husband and her daughter who died in Pakistan a couple of years ago.

Sitting cross-legged in the middle of her villa-like residence in the Arzan Qimat neighborhood located in the 12th Police District on the eastern edge of Kabul, the media-shy “Afghan Mona Lisa” rarely agrees to interviews or to look into the lens of a camera.

“Being famous is dangerous in Afghanistan,” Gula’s cousin, Niamat Gul, told Xinhua.

Living in the same house with Gula and accompanying her in running her daily life, Gul said Gula seldom leaves home since her repatriation from Pakistan.

“Sharbat Gula, who lived for more than three decades as a refugee in Peshawar, was put in jail for 14 days on a fake charge and expelled to Afghanistan on Nov. 9, 2016 and since then has been suffering from depression,” said Gul.

The mother of three daughters and a son, although illiterate and unable to read nor write, is regarded as symbol of “firmness, resilience and morality” among Afghan women in the insurgency-plagued country.

The only word that she can write and read is her name, said her cousin Gul.

Gul, who was born in Peshawar and studied there, is fluent in English and often serves as an interpreter for Gula when she faces foreign journalists.

Gula’s hometown is in the restive Kot district in the eastern Nangarhar province where both the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS) are active.

“She wants to visit her hometown in Kot district and of course she feels homesick, but cannot go because of the security threats posed by militants,” said Gul. Gula was little known to her fellow Afghan nationals before her return to Afghanistan. But she became popular overnight when local media, including state-owned and private television channels, broadcast her image and her meetings with government officials including the president and revealed her ordeals and demands.

Since her return to Afghanistan, her residence is often frequented by journalists, businesspeople, government officials and philanthropists, Gul said, expressing concerns that being famous for a simple woman who has no guard is extremely unsafe in a country where militancy is rampant.

Nevertheless, the former impoverished refugee child is hopeful that one day lasting peace will return to Afghanistan.

2 civilians killed, 19 injured

in Taliban mortar attack

Two civilians were killed and 19 others injured in Taliban militants’ mortar attack in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar on Tuesday, the provincial government said Wednesday.

“The incident occurred in Hafiz Goddi area in Bati Kot district at round 05:30 p.m. local time Tuesday. All the injured were shifted to a main hospital in provincial capital Jalalabad city,” it said in a statement.

Most of the wounded suffered from minor wounds.

The Taliban militants intensified attacks against security forces across the country after they launched a yearly rebel offensive on late April.

The Afghan civilians continue to bear the brunt of armed conflicts as more than 3,430 civilians were killed and over 7,000 others injured in conflict-related incidents in 2017, according to figures released by the United Nations mission in the country.

The mission has attributed 65 percent of the civilian casualties to the Taliban and other insurgent groups, 20 percent to security forces over the period while 11 percent were attributed to both sides during clashes and the rest 4 percent were caused by other reasons.

6 militants including shadow district governor killed

At least six militants, including a Taliban shadow district governor, were killed in an operation in Afghanistan’s northern province of Faryab overnight, an army source said Wednesday.

“Acting on a tip off units of Afghan National Army Special Operations Corps (ANASOC) raided a Taliban hideout in Yaka Toot village, Pashtun Kot district overnight. The militants physically engaged with the security force and the gunfight caused six militants killed,” Hanif Rezai, spokesman of army Corps 209 Shaheen based in the region, told Xinhua.

The killed included Mullah Hizbullah who served as Taliban shadow district governor for Pushtun Kot, he said, adding no member of security forces was hurt during the raid in the district south of provincial capital of Maimana.

Fighting has escalated in Afghanistan as the Taliban insurgency spreads from its traditional strongholds in the south and east to the once peaceful region in the north, where Taliban have been recruiting from among the youth.

The Taliban militant group has yet to make comments on the report.

 

Xinhua