Gulwali Passarlay Gulwali Passarlay

Gulwali Passarlay is an Afghan political refugee currently residing in the UK. He left Afghanistan in 2006 and graduated with a degree in Politics from the University of Manchester. Have recently finished his masters of MPA at Coventry University, CTPSR in Global Diversity Governance. In 2018 he has co-founded ‘My Bright Kite’ CIC to empower refugee youth and create awareness about the challenges asylum seekers and refugees face in their host society.

A Global Youth Ambassador for global children’s charity Theirworld, Gulwali has taken a long history of campaigning and leadership roles, including being the President of the United Afghan Peace Movement, Chairperson of the Afghan Youth Movement, Patron of the Separated Child Foundation, Commissioner of The Children’s Society, and Ambassador of various organisations, including being the Olympics Torch-bearer, and NHS Youth Forum. An award-winning activist, Gulwali has garnered the Distinguished Achievement Award (Student of the Year), Collaborative Leadership Award, and among others, the Manchester Leadership Gold Award, in recognition of his leadership and positive contribution.

He has told his story of life as a refugee in his autobiography: “The Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old Refugee’s Harrowing Escape from Afghanistan and His Extraordinary Journey Across Half The World”, on TV channels such as BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Channel 4 News, itv, Russia Today, in print media such as The Guardian, Time Magazine, The Independent, The Scotsman, and at events such as TEDx.

Gulwali continues to campaign and advocate for Refugees awareness and empowerment.

As a fervent advocate for many social justice issues and causes, Gulwali was nominated for the 2016 Nansen Refugee Award by the UNHCR. Today, he continues advocate for education, refugees rights, social justice, and to make a positive impact in the community, locally and abroad.

More information can be found at:

Below is an old bio…

Gulwali PASSARLAY is an Afghan political refugee currently residing in the UK. He left Afghanistan in 2006 and is currently reading Politics and International Relations at the University of Manchester.

In 2007, he arrived in the United Kingdom. At The Starting Point Centre for International New Arrivals, which is now defunct, Passarlay became the school captain, and the community ambassador. In his capacity as the Community Ambassador, he bridged links with the larger community in Bolton, for example, in planting trees and vegetation to make The Starting Point one of the greenest, most eco-friendly units/school in Bolton. Throughout his time here, Passarlay was introduced to the British culture, language, and the mainstream educational system in the UK.

He started his secondary education (Year 10) in 2008/9 at the Essa Academy in Bolton. Here he excelled in his academic subjects, scoring 10 GCSEs within a span of only two years. His outstanding results was not just a testimony of his accomplishment, but he was also a member of the School Council; a member of the Senate in the Academy; a representative of International New Arrivals; a Prefect; and the one and only Ambassador for the Academy. Due to his experiences and commitment to the New Arrivals, Passarlay was invited by other schools in the area to help establish policies and procedures for the new arrivals.

Passarlay’s extra-curricular activities, especially in the areas of volunteering, were foregrounded in 2010. He was a member of Bolton Youth Council, a member of Children in Care Council, and became heavily involved with the Northwest Youth Forum, called Youthforia. His responsibilities included representing the view of young people, attending conferences and events on behalf of the youths, and to voice out the concerns of those who had otherwise been silenced by the community, including children in care and asylum seekers.

The Bolton News covered his story. (See link).

Bolton News. 28 June 2011 Bolton News. 28 June 2011

A short documentary by Seal Films (2011) has been made about his experiences as a refugee seeking asylum outside Afghanistan, called Journey of Life.

In 2011, Passarlay had a placement in Bolton Sixth Form College. He studied Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. In college, he was a member of the Student Forum; member of the Equality and Diversity Committee; and a Student Governor. There, he received the BSFC Excellence Award for his immense contribution to college life.

Simultaneously, he attended the Manchester Access Programme (MAP) at the University of Manchester for a year. Following that and having achieved outstanding results for his A Levels, he was accepted into the University of Manchester for his undergraduate studies.

In 2012, Passarlay ran for the Bolton Youth MP election in a bid to campaign to create awareness about the role of the Youth MP (see link). Despite not winning, he has already impacted his community and empowered youths in having a more engaged participation in politics and policy-making. The turnout was exceedingly high for that year, resulting in more than 15,000 votes compared to previous years.

Connexions Bolton Youth MP 2012 Connexions Bolton Youth MP 2012

Nonetheless, Passarlay persevered in his commitment towards social change, and was selected to sit on the first ever National Scrutiny Group (NSG), whose aims were twofold:

  1. Enable Government departments and Ministers to seek young people’s views on the content and implementation of their policies and thereby enable them to make more informed decisions;
  2. Advise Ministers and departments on appropriate standards for the meaningful and credible involvement of young people in policy development and scrutiny. (see link)
    National Scrutiny Group 2012 National Scrutiny Group 2012
    Passarlay at the NSG meeting with the DfE, 2013 Passarlay at the NSG meeting with the DfE, 2013

Privileged to represent the Northwest in the NSG, Passarlay wrote on the British Youth Council website:

I have had the honour of being part of the first NSG, which was indeed a wonderful and rewarding experience to be able to make a difference and influence government policies on youth. Volunteering has continued to play an important part in my life, through school, college and now university – I have had the opportunity of involvement and participation in many institutions/groups/committees and other youth led organisations. It has been my passion and dedication to support and represent those from disadvantage background but more so young people in general.  Recently I have become involved with and selected to participate in the following: Children’s Commission on Poverty, Youthforia Youth Employment Commission, and Ambassador for 2020 Education.

Gulwali Passarlay and NSG members with Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, 2013 Gulwali Passarlay and NSG members with Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, 2013

Not surprisingly, the Bolton News again featured Passarlay’s involvement with the National Scrutiny Group on 12th September 2012. (See link)

In the same year, Passarlay was the one of the 8,000 torch-bearers — and arguably the first Afghan — to carry the Olympic torch in Burnley, UK. This was presumably because of his enormous contribution to the local community in Bolton.

Gulwali Passarlay as Olympic Torch Bearer 2012 Gulwali Passarlay as Olympic Torch Bearer 2012

In 2013, Passarlay began his undergraduate studies at the University of Manchester, where his story was already picked up and widely published online. The UoM called him “the UK’s most remarkable student” (see link), and the School of the Social Sciences spotlighted him as well (see link).

University of Manchester Press Release 2013 University of Manchester Press Release 2013
University of Manchester School of Social Sciences Student Spotlight University of Manchester School of Social Sciences Student Spotlight

He was also featured by the Office of Social Responsibility as one of the people at the University making a difference in the world, in an initiative called “Making A Difference” (see link).

Gulwali Passarlay Making A Difference Poster 2013 Gulwali Passarlay Making A Difference Poster 2013

At the launch of the “Making A Difference”, Passarlay was introduced to the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, who was impressed with this young man’s enthusiasm and commitment to social change.

Gulwali Passarlay and Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell Gulwali Passarlay and Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell

Last updated on 13 April 2014.


19 thoughts on “Biography

  1. Avraham Solomons

    Shalom (Hello and peace) Gulwali,

    I just read the short piece on you in the Sept. 2014 issue of “your manchester”. To say the least I was inspired and impressed. I was born into and brought up in a comfortable environment, in all senses, and even though I studied successfully at university (Manchester B.Sc in Elec Eng & Electronics 1971, Edinburgh Ph.D. in Medical Physics 1975), I know I wouldn’t have achieved even a small fraction if it had I been in your shoes. Apart from your obvious brilliance, I would have been discouraged and not had anything like the necessary determination. You’ve endured much suffering and come out smiling. That’s amazing. You also want to bring good into the world. That’s not just creditable, that’s marvelous. I look forward to reading your autobiography one day. It will make a very fine read, an inspiring read.

    Till then, my heart-felt wishes for every bracha (blessing), success and happiness.

    Avraham Solomons
    (Jerusalem, Israel)

    1. gulwalipassarlay Post author

      Salaam Alalakum Avraham,

      Apologies, I thought I have responded but many thanks for your very supportive and encouraging thoughtfulness. Much appreciate your kindness.
      With my very best wishes

  2. MSandher

    Hello Gulwali,
    I’m a 22 year old girl from Canada who recently came across your biography “The Lightless Sky”. I was curious so I bought it today and completed it in one sitting and it left me speechless. I was deeply moved by your story, your struggles and your determination to overcome the hardships thrown your way. I’ve been brought up quite comfortably here in Canada and reading your biography made me realize not everyone is as fortunate. You’ve honestly inspired me and I feel a sense of pride that amidst the chaos of everything, our generation has strong-willed individuals like you that continue to provide hope and positivity for the millions who are less fortunate and fighting the battle you’ve already been through. I was looking for an email address to get in touch with you but I wasn’t able to find one so I hope this message gets across to you somehow. I’ve always wanted to be a part of an organization that provides aid to refugees.

    Sending you well wishes and duain!

  3. Ziaulhaq Amin Wardak

    HI Dear Gulwali,
    I am a 26year old student of MBA OF SWISS UMEF University in KABUL, i heard about your good cause,struggles, attention to education, refugees` problems, your innovatie ideas… all of these are proud of we Afghans that you show the positive image of Afghans to the world, congratulation your book about Afghan refugees(ligthless sky).
    Ziaulhaq Amin Wardak

  4. Frank Collings

    Hi Gulwali,

    I’ve just finished reading your book. What a fantastic account, so moving and so powerful, I really haven’t read anything quite like it in all my life. You’re a fantastic writer, that’s for sure.

    Is there any chance we could talk over the phone or perhaps email. I have left my email below. I’m planning to go to your talk in Church Stretton on the 20th of April and I’m looking forward to seeing you there.

    Thank you and looking forward to speaking soon,

  5. Horry Maxime

    Dear Gulwali,

    Your book was like a slap for me. Never red a book like yours!!

    I remember a wonderful sentence: “Enemy of love, it’s not hate but indifference.”. Nothing is worse than indifference. Have faith in God is your best friend!

    I rely on you to be one day president of Afghanistan because you deserve it 🙂

    Good luck for the future

    Maxime from France

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  7. Mindy

    Dear Gulwali,

    I have just finished your book. Thank you for sharing your life, your story, your journey and your struggles. I am forever touched and changed because of what I have read. I hope you achieve all you dream and desire. I will try to help more refugees now and take action.

    Mindy from the US

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  9. Pat Wright

    Dear Gulawi,

    I have just finished reading your book. Start to finish in less than 12 hours. I was enthralled by your determination through your journey and the trials and tribulations you had to endure. I am pleased you have finally found peace in the UK. I have been trying to find news on whether you have managed to contact your mother but I cannot find anything about this. Please, if you see this message, let me know if you have been in contact with her and if she is well.

    Pat from the UK

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  11. Christa Horrell

    A chance meeting on a train
    “You have no book to read?Well have my book!”

    A heart stopping act just in itself.

    But of course then I read the book

    It inspired me Gulwali.

    We were on our way to see a contemporary ballet in Nottingham

    ghost dances was about the plights
    of the Chilean people and their determination to continue as happy ordinary country folk despite the oppression. So many parallels in our lives!!!

    We all have our worries and responsibilities Gulwali but we need to always reach out to help others.

    Your book was an inspiring read.

    Thank you for your kindness

    Hope you remember us quirky old English travellers. We loved meeting you. Guess it was meant to be!

    Your book is doing the rounds now.
    But it is definitely going to end up back here as a treasure.

    Thank you xxxxxx

  12. Candy Fickle

    You have touched my heart deeply..thank u…so proud of the man that you are becoming your father and grandparents.. Would be over joyed..your mother..probably.carries you deeply in her heart..take good care…

  13. Marie-Hélène Raymond

    Dear Gulwali,
    I was so moved by your story, by your courage and strength despite all the hardships. It’s a book everyone should read. Next week I am going to talk about you and your story to my 12-year-old daughter’s class, here in Montreal, Canada. I will encourage them to read your book and to remember that there is always hope and light in the sky even when it seems really dark.
    Congratulations on your book and your graduation! Keep up the great work!

  14. Geoffsky

    It was mighty grand to hear you in Nottingham the other day, Gulwali – huge thanks for coming over and I hope that you get the chance to visit us again soon! Keep up the great work!
    (Migrant Support Worker/Campaigner).

  15. Melissa

    Dear Gulwali
    I am a 14 year old girl from the UK and I recently found your book in a charity bookshop and I just had to pick it up. And I’m so glad I did. I devoured the book in one sitting and it left me completely speechless. Your journey was so inspirational and moving I chose your book to write about for a school reading project. It was such a touching book I had to write about it it. It was so mind blowing that you were younger than me when you endured such hardships. Thank you for opening my eyes and educating me with your touching story because it has honestly changed my perspectives and touched my heart. So glad you reached your goals and dreams and I wish you nothing but the best.

    Thank you,


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