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Zia’s Story: I Was Born In War

It was late August in 2021. Zia received a call from the U.S military. The government of Afghanistan had fallen to the Taliban, and they needed to get Zia out of the country quickly. 

 “It happened suddenly, like two or three days.” 

The man said to go to the Kabul airport where Zia and his family would be taken to America. Although the U.S. military controlled the inside of the airport, everything outside was the Taliban’s territory. 

As a government official, Zia knew that he was being hunted. Quickly he gathered his wife and two children, and rushed them to the airport. Somehow, they made it inside. 

They should have been safe. 

“I heard a big explosion. It was a suicide attack. It killed more than 300 people including like fourteen U.S. soldiers.” 

The sound was too familiar to Zia. “I was born in war.” 

In the 1980’s the Soviet Union had attacked Afghanistan, starting a war that would last for the entirety of Zia’s childhood. Even though Afghanistan fought off the intruders, it was hardly a victory. Civil war followed within the year. At thirteen, the Taliban attacked Zia’s home town and forced his family to flee to Iran. 

After Al Qaeda took down the Twin Towers on 911, the United States and NATO joined forces resulting in the end of the Taliban regime. Those that lived in exile could now return home. 

Zia embraced the changes and opportunities that manifested in his country. He started working as a journalist and by 19 years old, Zia was the Editor-In-Chief of the first private newspaper in Afghanistan. In 2009, he began working as a political round-table announcer on television. 

Zia remembered those day well. “Everything was good.” 

Zia story: I was born in war

Many Afghan men stepped up to take on responsibilities in establishing a new government. Zia himself set up several U.S. military bases throughout Afghanistan. Together the people formed a republic with elected officials and a constitution. Women held a vote and the universities were open to everyone. 

Zia proudly obtained degrees in Islamic Knowledge and Business and Administration (MBA). He enjoyed teaching in the universities, and worked in several government positions. 

When the President formed the Ministry for Peace, Zia was instated as the Director of Public Awareness.  He supported Afghan delegations and negotiations…until the Taliban resurfaced in 2021

In under a year, the government had collapsed and Zia found himself in danger, standing in the Kabul airport. Nearly twenty years had gone by since returning to Afghanistan. 

“It was the second time I lose my country – forced to leave my country and establish a new life in another culture.” 

Unable to board the plane, Zia and his family spent nine months thwarting the Taliban. It was very dangerous to stay in one place. Zia’s face was well known from his days working in TV journalism. The family moved every week in order to stay undetected. 

“We lost thousands of students by their attacks. A lot of them I know them,” Zia said. “A lot of them were my friends. A lot of them were my classmates. A lot of them were my coworkers. I lost a lot of my coworkers in the government and I lost a lot of my students in the universities by Taliban attacks.” 

In March 2022, the Italian government offered protection to Zia where he finally registered as a Special Immigrant Visa holder. While in Italy, Zia emailed the US Secretary of State’s office and told them about his family’s situation. 

I’m in Italy with my family. If you could process my case… 

The US Secretary of State’s office responded. Yes

After two years in Italy, Zia finally arrived in America. The family secured housing through World Relief and enrolled in employment services. During this time, Zia’s wife gave birth to their third child. 

While searching for a job, Zia’s case manager suggested that he apply to work at World Relief in the Economic Empowerment Department. Zia did and within a few days he attended his first interview in America. 

“There was a lot of guys from the employment department, you know. Ivan, Julie, Brooke, Amanda, Jared. So, they interviewed me.” 

Zia laughed when he remembered the whole team bombarding him with questions. “I was nervous…all of them was very very friendly.” 

The next day Zia received an offer from World Relief. “It was unbelievable for me to accept – to get an offer for the job.” 

A case manager helping a client find a job.

Education matters greatly to Zia. He is happy that his children can go to school. They have a good teacher and good equipment to further their studies. 

Mixed with Zia’s joy, is sadness for the children who cannot study in Afghanistan. “More than 3 million children are not able to go to school in Afghanistan cause they lose their parents, and they have to work in the street to find a little bit of money.” 

Zia’s wife is currently raising their newest member of the family, who is the first U.S. citizen in the family. She looks forward to obtaining a medical degree at the university…something she would not have had the opportunity to work towards if the family had stayed under the Taliban. 

As for Zia, he looks forward to completing his PHD, and perhaps even begin teaching in the university again. 

“I like to work in the educational environment. Do research, do writing, articles, teaching…to learn from each other from others and improve my personality.” 

Integration into American society is vastly important to Zia. He spends time with the community and is learning about American culture, values and beliefs. The community’s mutual interest in his own ideas and culture is appreciated as well. He has so much to share. 

“When we leave our countries, we leave everything behind us. We leave everything like our families, our parents, our friends. Our memories exactly or childhood memories. We leave our life that we’ve built for a long time.” 


Refugees do not leave their homes because they choose to. They leave because it is not longer safe for them to stay. They leave a lot of things behind, sometimes with only the hope that things will get better. 

Zia has seen firsthand the effects of war. “The Taliban tried to kill me several times. They broke into my car and tried to kill me, but I am alive here.” 

The world is facing a refugee crisis unlike any other. Families are faced with extreme violence, war, persecution and poverty. The need for solutions is urgent. Millions are displaced, their hearts heavy with loss. But there’s good news: You can help, right here in Spokane. 

This year we have 700 refugees and other immigrants arriving in Spokane from all over the globe. We hope you will take this opportunity not only to welcome these families, but to embrace new friendships. Be brave. Be culturally curious. 

Be part of the solution by visiting our World Refugee Day landing page and making an impact. 

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