Refugee, Journalist, Hero: The Inspiring Story of Zubair Babakarkhail

Photo by J.P. Lawrence/Stars and Stripes

As we commemorate World Refugee Day, we want to take a moment to honor the resilience and determination of people across the world who have been forced to leave their homes. Today, we spotlight the incredible journey of Zubair Babakarkhail, an Afghan journalist whose courage and conviction led him on a truly inspiring journey from crisis to hope. 

Zubair’s story begins in Afghanistan, where his work as a journalist was a heroic act of defiance. He reported on the war in Afghanistan, working closely with American entities like Stars and Stripes for more than 17 years. Zubair first experienced displacement during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, leading his family to migrate to Pakistan. He returned to his homeland in 2002, only to face another exodus in 2021 with the Taliban’s takeover.

The journey out of Afghanistan was equal parts desperation and determination. With each attempt to reach the airport, the danger for Zubair and his family escalated. They eventually fled Kabul less than two days before a deadly bombing at the airport, carrying only a few small bags.

Behind the scenes, an extraordinary group was working tirelessly to assist Zubair and his family. Our clients, Carmen Gentile and Kim Palmiero of Postindustrial Media headed up Team Zubair: a collective of journalists, business owners, and former diplomats. Team Zubair came together to provide support and resources to the family and to get them safely settled here in the US. 

Upon arriving at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, Zubair expressed something that reflects his spirit of resilience: “I haven’t heard anyone calling any Afghan, a refugee. They are calling us guests. So this is all of what you need after trauma or after tragedy.”

These words capture the warm welcome Zubair and his family felt as they began their new journey in the U.S. After a brief stay at Fort McCoy, Zubair chose to settle in Pittsburgh, where he now helps others who, like him, fled their homelands in the face of war and oppression.

Zubair continues to advocate for refugees in the U.S. He connects families with donors and documents his experiences in a new country, providing insight into the uncertainty and hope that come with starting anew.

Zubair’s journey is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. It highlights the extraordinary efforts of Team Zubair and other similar organizations committed to helping families in crisis. As we commemorate World Refugee Day, we’re reminded of the power of community, compassion, and courage in the face of adversity.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate and learn from Zubair’s story. Let it inspire us to extend a helping hand to those in need, welcoming them not as refugees but as guests and potential friends. Together, we can create a world that values peace, acceptance, and new beginnings.

Hear more from Zubair here.