A gripping, inspiring, and eye-opening memoir of survival – of a twelve-year-old boy’s traumatic flight from Afghanistan to the West – a book that puts a face to one of the most shocking and devastating humanitarian crises of our time. I am that boy. The book is based on my life.
In 2006 I was 12. My father was killed and I was caught between the Taliban, who wanted to recruit my 13-year-old brother and I, and the American military who wanted to use us as informers. We were innocent pawns in a dirty game of war that wasn’t ours.
To protect us, our mother sent us away. The search for safety would lead my 12-year-old self across 8 countries, from the mountains of eastern Afghanistan through Iran and Europe to Britain. Over the course of a year, I endured beatings, imprisonment, hunger, cruelty, brutality, loneliness, and terror. I nearly drowned crossing the Mediterranean Sea and spent harrowing weeks living like an animal in the so-called Calais jungle. Eventually I made it to England where a new and even harder challenge began – convincing a sceptical Home Office of the truth of my story. Slowly I learned English, won a place at university and was chosen to help carry the Olympic Torch in the 2012 London Games.
In The Lightless Sky, I lay bare my experience and offer a first-hand look at one of the most pressing issues of our time: the modern refugee crisis. The Lightless Sky is a poignant account not only of my life but of the other refugees I met along the way. Not all of them made it to safety. And without the friends who helped me along the way – those who looked out for the scared 12-year-old child in their midst – I know I would not have made it either.
The Lightless Sky is a reminder of our responsibilities to those caught in terrifying and often deadly circumstances beyond their control. But it is also a reminder that refugees are human too. And proof that humanity and kindness can exist everywhere.