The Lightless Sky: An Afghan Refugee Boy's Journey of Escape to a New Life in Britain

Author(s): Gulwali Passarlay

Biography & Memoir

'To risk my life had to mean something. Otherwise what was it all for?' Gulwali Passarlay was sent away from Afghanistan at the age of twelve, after his father was killed in a gun battle with the US army for hiding Taliban fighters. Smuggled into Iran, Gulwali began a twelve month odyssey across Europe, spending time in prisons, suffering hunger, cruelty, brutality, nearly drowning in a tiny boat on the Mediterranean. Somehow he survived, and made it to Britain, no longer an innocent child but still a boy of twelve. Here in Britain he was fostered, sent to a good school, won a place at a top university, and was chosen to carry the Olympic torch in 2012. He wants to tell his story - to bring to life the plight of the thousands of men, women and children who risk their lives to leave behind the troubles of their homelands. Many die along the way, some are sent back to face imprisonment and possible death, some survive and make it here, to a country which offers them the chance of a life of freedom and opportunity. One boy's story is the central story of our times, and this memoir celebrates the triumph of courage and determination over adversity.


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One of the most astonishing memoirs of 2015 - the boy who fled Afghanistan and endured a terrifying journey in the hands of people smugglers is now a young man intent on changing the world. His story is a deeply harrowing and incredibly inspiring tale of our times.

"An extraordinary man - achieving against all odds." - Jon Snow, Twitter

'The Lightless Sky is a heart-rending read that illuminates the plight of unaccompanied minors forced to leave their homes and loved ones. It is beautifully written (with the help of the journalist Nadene Ghouri) in simple, accessible prose.' -- Lucy Popescu, Independent


Gulwali Passarlay was sent away from Afghanistan as a young boy, fleeing the conflict that had claimed his father's life. After an extraordinarily tortuous journey across eight countries, Gulwali arrived in the UK a year later and has devoted his new life to education. Now twenty-one years old, he is set to graduate from the University of Manchester with a degree in Philosophy and Politics. Gulwali is a member of many prestigious political, aid, and youth groups, each a stepping stone to his ultimate goal: to run for Presidency of Afghanistan. In 2012 he was invited to carry the Olympic Torch.

General Fields

  • : 9781782398455
  • : Atlantic Books, Limited
  • : Atlantic Books
  • : August 2015
  • : United Kingdom
  • : October 2015
  • : December 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Gulwali Passarlay
  • : Paperback
  • : Export ed
  • : en
  • : 325.21092
  • : 304
  • : 8 colour plates