Zak Khogyani was only nine-years-old when he fled Afghanistan with his family and for the past few months, he has been aiding other Afghan refugees in their escape from the Taliban.
Ever since the extremist group regained control of Afghanistan back in August, some citizens have been left fearing for their lives and for many, the decision to leave the area has become essential. And that’s where Zak Khogyani comes in. At only nine years old, he was forced to flee his home country and his empathy for those experiencing the same thing today has allowed him to go above and beyond for his people. Though Khogyani’s reasons for leaving were slightly different – his grandfather was a judge and a senator and due to the shifting political climate, the family was bombarded with death threats – his family was still forced to leave their home and find a safer place to spread their roots.
Now, almost 5 decades on, the fifty-three-year-old has established himself as a successful pilot. He has dedicated twenty-seven years of his life to serving as a pilot for United Airlines and now he’s putting all his skills to the test in order to help those in need.
Upon hearing that the Pentagon had called up the Civil Reserve Air Fleet to provide planes to help evacuate Afghan refugees from the area, Khogyani personally wrote a letter to the CEO of United Airlines also offering his aid.
The pilot flew to an airbase in Germany to meet with the evacuees on their journey to the United States. Over the next few days, he accompanied approximately 1,000 refugees as well as acted as an interpreter. His presence alone helped those on board feel comforted by the familiar sound of Pashto around them.
“Welcome,” he told them. “I hope you come joyfully.”
Initially, the refugees were shocked and a little confused but as Khogyani started answering a few of their questions, it suddenly became non-stop.
“What happens next?”
“How do I find a job?”
“Who can I turn to for help?”
Even though Khogyani couldn’t answer everything, he tried his best to give the refugees hope. And that’s all they needed for this trip, hope. That’s all he had when he left Afghanistan too.
“The United States is the land of opportunity,” he says. “If you are willing to work hard no one is going to stop you from having what you want to achieve.”