Afghan Refugee Girl in Pakistan

Afghan refugee girl in Pakistan
Afghan refugee girl in Pakistan (click to enlarge photography)

An Afghan refugee girl living in Pakistan

In 2007 I entered Pakistan during Musharraf’s emergency rule. A tumultuous time. Not just for me though. As I soon discovered a refugee camp next to the Afghanistan border.

Facts about Afghan refugees in Pakistan:

  • By 1988, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and the civil war that followed over 3.3 million Afghan refugees were housed in Pakistan
  • After the United States of America declared war on the Taliban more refugees flooded into Pakistan bringing the number of refugees to 5 million
  • Pakistan is listed as a “developing nation” with a population of 150 million
  • Others countries Afghan refugees fled to include Iran and Russia
  • Iran estimates that every refugee costs Iran $674 a year, and that the international community shares only $6 of this burden
  • The UNHCR has repeatedly voiced its concerns over the current state of many refugee camps, the rights of Afghan refugees, and their repatriation
  • Pakistan is currently witness to the largest repatriation movement in modern history

The story behind this photograph

I had just visited the Khyber Pass one day before it was permanently closed due to dangerous kidnappings and killings. I had accomplished a personal goal on my overland journey. It also led me to several depleted and abandoned Afghan refugee camps.

Several camps were no more than fields of strewn garbage and crumbling walls. Everything from doors, to roofs to flooring had been taken as the camps were closed.

One camp I found was still operational. It was a mud city where I met some of the most friendly people on my journey. Men & children smiled widely as I walked through their torn lives photographing what at the time were personal keepsakes.

I came across a group of girls working. Gathering clothes and chickens in the late afternoon.

This particular girl had dark hair tinted auburn and she simply stared at me. While some of her friends laughed as they worked, she did not.

This photograph is by no means perfect. It is badly cropped. It’s even slightly blurred due to the low light at the time. But, it’s an image I will not forget.

I even had a hard time raising my camera up, my hands were shaking. We were just staring at each other. I wondered if two scarred past childhoods were sensing each other.

This photograph was of a child with a painful past. A past declared by others doing. And now she’s living a life no child should.

She will grow up without having a regular childhood. Missing the years that would have given the world one of humankind’s most precious traits. The innocent smile of a child.

Discover more great travel photographs

Afghan Refugee Girl in Pakistan
Afghan Refugee Girl in Pakistan

This is an additional photograph feature from my world travel photography gallery, documenting the story behind the picture 

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10 Replies to “Afghan Refugee Girl in Pakistan”

  1. You said it, she looks a lot older behind those eyes than most children her age.

  2. You just wonder what the future held for this young girl? Where is she now, what are her circumstances? Sometimes a perfect shot is just to perfect, if you know what i mean.

    Imagine going back to the region in 20 years, and trying to find this girl. As National Geographic did with that famous portrait, shot many years ago.

    1. She was very much the silent, all watching, and look after the other kids type of girl. I imagine she will get married as per her parents wishes to support her family. Much like McCurry’s return, I imagine it would be a let down.

      As I am sure you know from your own travels, there are certain looks, or looks from certain people that live with you. Why quite this is, I am not sure. Perhaps there is a brief connection at that moment in time. Trying to return there, never seems to happen.

  3. It’s a beautiful photograph and so emotional. Thanks for providing some background on the girl and the Afghan refugees.

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