06/06/2002 – Would you recognize today someone you met only once, for a brief moment, nearly 17 years ago? Could you prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the person standing before you really was who you believed her to be? These were the bold questions facing a National Geographic EXPLORER team that journeyed halfway across the globe to search for the mysterious “Afghan Girl,” whose arresting portrait captivated the world on a 1985 National Geographic magazine cover. The identity of the subject of National Geographic’s most recognized photograph recently made headlines all over the world, and only EXPLORER host Boyd Matson can take viewers into the cutting-edge world of identification verification to prove that the woman today was the child in the photo. Afghan Girl: Behind the Search premieres Sunday, June 16 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on MSNB
Seventeen years ago within the turmoil of refugee camps along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a child with fiery eyes had her picture taken – a simple act that ignited an overwhelming international response for the suffering of refugees everywhere. National Geographic has received thousands of letters, phone calls, and emails asking for information about the girl and how she might be helped. Hers was a face without a name, and photographer Steve McCurry, who took the haunting image, has long wanted to know about the life behind the intense gaze that so clearly reflected both the suffering and strength of her peopl
Now, McCurry gains another chance to share her story – if the EXPLORER team can locate her. The decades-long conflict in Afghanistan has resulted in 3.5 million refugees living in cramped poverty. There is no paper trail to follow, and religious culture keeps the face McCurry hopes to find hidden amidst a sea of burkas. He must sort through false leads and call upon all his contacts from 23-years experience in the war-ravaged region, knowing that in the end it will be her eyes that will identify the girl now grown into a woma
Modern forensic science makes identification possible. National Geographic consults with experts in FBI facial recognition techniques and the technology used by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Utilizing state-of-the-art iris recognition, eye patterns that are as unique as fingerprints will match up old and new photographs of the Afghan woman, Sharbat Gula, confirming that she is indeed the girl from so long ago.
Because Sharbat Gula has come to symbolize the suffering of an entire generation of Afghan women and their children, the National Geographic Society has created a special fund to assist in the development and delivery of educational opportunities for young Afghan women and girls. The Society is working with select nonprofit organizations and local authorities in the region to create the program. So far, the fund has raised over $250,000. Contributions to the National Geographic “Afghan Girls Fund” can be made online at www.nationalgeographic.com or by sending a check directly to the National Geographic Afghan Girls Fund, Development Office, National Geographic Society, 1145 17th Street NW, Washington, D.C., 200
For programming information and updates for National Geographic EXPLORER, please log on to www.nationalgeographic.com/tv/explorer.
NGT&F is a wholly-owned subsidiary of National Geographic Ventures, which also manages National Geographic’s businesses in interactive, online, merchandising, travel expeditions, and related businesses. Building on its reputation for remarkable visual and compelling stories, National Geographic Television & Film (NGT&F) augments its award-winning documentary productions (winner of 116 Emmys and more than 800 other industry awards) with feature films, large-format, and long-form television drama programming. Worldwide, NGT&F’s programming can be seen on the National Geographic Channel, MSNBC, and PBS, home video & DVD, and through international broadcast syndication. The National Geographic Channel is received by more than 130 million households in 23 languages and 136 countries, including the U.S. More information about NGT&F is available on www.nationalgeographic.com
MSNBC is a joint venture between NBC, a leading provider of news and information, and Microsoft, the leader in personal computer software and a major provider of Internet online services. Built on the worldwide resources of NBC News, MSNBC is a 24-hour cable news network available in 68 million homes and Internet news service at http://www.msnbc.com