The story behind the eyes

In November 1983, National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry was at a refugee camp just outside Peshawar in Pakistan. At the camp, he came across Alam Bibi, whose picture he snapped. The picture came to grace the cover of the June 1985 issue of National Geographic and has been seen by millions since. If I said it was the picture of the young girl with the eyes, many of you would know of which picture I was speaking.

The story of Alam Bibi does not stop there. With her family, she returned home in 1992, only to find her home in ruins and the fields full of land mines. Her family then settled near the mountain-cave region used by the mujahedeen, known as Tora Bora.

Having learned English in the refugee camp, Bibi set up informal English lessons. Unfortunately for her, some of her pupils happened to be the daughters of Osama bin Laden, who had settled in the Tora Bora region in 1996 after being expelled from Sudan. Because of this connection, albeit a small one, various groups of Westerners have been looking for her in and around Peshawar. It is unknown who these groups are. CIA, American military, who knows, but because of them, Bibi along with her two children, have fled and gone into hiding.

I bring Bibi up now because you have seen her face. She is one of the thousands or even millions of innocent victims affected by the current war in Afghanistan. But as most of those victims have not had their portraits circulated throughout the world we lump them together as a nameless and faceless mass. They are no longer individuals, but are instead one mass victim.

Until I told you her name and story, Bibi may have been part of that nameless and faceless mass. But now that you know her, she is an individual victim with a name, a face and a story. Maybe when you see the pictures of the refugees along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, you will think of Bibi and realize that all those people have names, faces and stories.

Bibi has not known peace in over two decades, a sad fact is that that is the reality of most of the people of Afghanistan as well as billions more around the world. If the New World Order promised by George Bush the Elder over 10 years ago is to truly happen, that sad fact has to change. Our governments, call them the West or the industrialized nations of the world, have to get serious about the plight of people like Bibi. Young girls should not grow into young mothers who experience the horror of war as a way of life for two decades.

Bibi is just one of the many innocent victims of the many wars going on in the world. I hope by knowing her name and story, those of us not faced with the daily threat of war and violence will realize that every single one of those like Bibi have names, faces, stories and families. In short, they are people too, and we should always remember that.



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