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Monday, 11 January 2016

The Lightless Sky

From being a child caught in the middle of a war and its accompanying dilemmas, to being a refugee who charted many uncharted waters, to finally being one of the few who carried the Olympic Torch during its tour of Britain in 2012, Gulwali Passarlay has done it all. A young Afghan Refugee and a traumatised lad, Gulwali traversed all of eight countries to get where he did, as a refugee. Today, he is a powerful voice for the rights of refugees all over Europe. The Lightless Sky is Gulwali's account from the time he left Afghanistan as a refugee and reached the shores of safety in England.

He was just 12, with his brother Hazrat, who was 13. They left their village when their mother paid a smuggler to take them out. After having been suspected of hiding weapons for the Taliban, his father and grandfather were  killed in a shoot-out with US troops. Soon after, Gulwali and Hazrat were hounded by the Taliban, who wanted them to become their freedom fighters. On the other hand, the Americans wanted them as their spies. With their mother's support, they were smuggled out of Kabul and taken to Italy, and in Peshawar, the two brothers separated. Gulwali was busy looking for safety, and to find his brother all at once. 

The book is a vivid narrative of his story that includes everything from arrests, torture, poverty, hunger, nearly drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, and the myriad emotional imprints that torture leaves upon one's person. He speaks of the difficulty of life in the jungle, in Calais, France, where he sleeps in filthy conditions, relying on charity for food. Finally, he arrived in Dover, sitting in a truck that transports bananas - and he is denied foster care and education, and is made to live with adult asylum seekers all because they don't believe that he is 13.


The Lightless Sky is a very important read in contemporary times. There is a major and urgent need for refugees to be protected, taken care of and given the assistance they need. No one wants to leave home - it is the situation that is forcing them to. Gulwali's voice is a very important one, and needs to be heard.