• Marinela Gremi

When Zoya reflects on her life in Afghanistan, she remembers her days as a human rights activist and gender equality specialist. With dedication, she worked tirelessly to improve the lives of her fellow Afghans, especially young girls, by promoting education and equal rights.

But everything changed when the Taliban took over. Zoya remembers it as “the darkest chapter of my life. We felt hopeless for our lives and for the future of our kids”. For over a month, Zoya and her family faced many challenges. They had to constantly move from one place to another, hiding from danger. Yet, amidst the hardships and fearing for their safety, they found support to flee Afghanistan and seek refuge in Albania. 

“We were lucky enough to leave the country because of my job. I had many relations with journalists. One of them helped me by introducing me to another journalist who was taking the names of human rights activists and she helped my family to leave Afghanistan. But many people couldn’t. Many people were stuck." This moment gave them hope and reminded them they were not alone.

As Zoya prepares to start a new life in America, she remains hopeful. Despite losing everything in Afghanistan, she is determined to rebuild her life and continue her work for human rights and gender equality.

Her message for people in power is clear: Support women, especially those facing difficult situations such as in Afghanistan. She dreams of making a positive impact, both in her new country and back home, if given the chance.

Her first step in America? Improving her English. Zoya believes that by helping herself, she can better serve society. For her, life is about making a difference for those who need support the most.

Zoya's story is a reminder of the importance of empowering women and fighting for equality, no matter where we are in the world.

© Marinela Gremi/IOM Pre-departure Orientation Session in Shengjin, Albania

A few thousand Afghan nationals who fled their country following the turbulent transfer of power in August 2021 were evacuated to Albania and were given temporary shelter in Durres and Shëngjin. Since their temporary stay in Albania began, IOM has been close to the evacuees and assisted with facilitating their resettlement process to Canada, the US, and some European destinations.

In coordination with the respective embassies, host countries’ immigration authorities, airport and carrier authorities and other service providers, IOM has logistically supported immigration authority interviewing, facilitated “fitness to travel” checks, pre-departure orientation sessions, movement operations, and other services related to refugee resettlement, for over 4000 Afghan nationals.

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 5 - Gender Equality