Maya Ghazal is the world’s first female Syrian refugee pilot. She is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR. Ghazal advocates for refugee inclusion, access to education and job opportunities using her influence and has ambitions of becoming a commercial airline pilot.
Early Life and Education
Maya Ghazal is the first of three children, and she grew up in Damascus, Syria along with her two younger brothers. Her father owned a shop and her mother works as a photographer. When Ghazal was only 12 years old, the conflict in Syria started, and due to the rising insecurity, she had to change school three times to stay safe. When she was 15 years old, her father left Syria for the UK and one year later, Ghazal, her mother and two brothers fled Damascus to reunite with their father in the UK.
In 2015, Ghazal and her family arrived in the UK and were subject to hostile treatment from UK customs. Even though they had acquired refugee status and were coming into the country legally, the officers had taken them into a room and asked them several questions, Ghazal told Vogue. They were eventually let through customers after she started to cry – her family initially settled in Birmingham before moving to London.
While in Syria, Ghazal had gotten her secondary school qualifications, which are equivalent to GCSEs. However, every school in the UK that she took these qualifications to did not regard them. So, she worked hard on learning the English language by herself and became proficient enough to get back into school in the UK. She knew she wanted to study aviation engineering, and this interest drove her to get her pilot license. She is now studying for a degree in aviation engineering at University in London.
In 2019, Maya Ghazal was a co-sponsor of the education session at the first-ever Global Refugee Forum. She lends her voice to refugee advocacy and has delivered several inspiring speeches, including at the WE Day Youth Empowerment Forum, The Global Social Forum on Education, the Palace of Westminster, the WISE Summit and the United Nations.
In 2019, she gave a speech at TEDXPlaceDesNationWomen, titled Education, Aspiration, Compassion, where she offered solutions to understanding refugees and providing support for them.