Maya Ghazal: A refugee can be anyone, like a pilot flying your plane – a pilot like me!”

From being forced to flee to flying airplanes, Maya Ghazal embodies the spirit and resilience of refugees in the UK.

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© UNHCR / Andrew McConnell


At just 22 years old, Maya Ghazal holds many titles: pilot, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, and spokesperson and role model for young refugees.

Born and raised in Damascus, Syria, Maya and her family faced increasing difficulties when the Syrian crisis began in 2011, when basic necessities such as water, electricity and gas weren’t always available. Despite the challenges of day-to-day survival, Maya’s parents always valued education, seeing it as the key to success for their children, something which Maya continues to promote today. Maya had to change schools three times during the crisis, but as the situation worsened, she wasn’t always sure if she would survive.

Maya’s father fled Syria for the UK, and in 2015 she joined him on a family reunion visa, leaving her home, hopes and dreams behind. When Maya and her mother arrived in London, they stayed in a hotel near Heathrow Airport, where the sight of planes taking off and landing amazed Maya and she found a new dream: to become a pilot.


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Maya has overcome many challenges and obstacles since arriving in the UK, achieving a place at Brunel University in London to study aviation engineering. 

In 2019, Maya took her first solo flight, and soon after earned her private pilot’s license – becoming the first ever female Syrian refugee pilot. Maya says that her favourite thing about being a pilot is that she can take control of her own path, having the sky as her limit. 

Maya’s love of flying inspired her definition: “A refugee is a human being with hopes and dreams like everyone else. A refugee can be anyone, like a pilot flying your plane – a pilot like me!” 

Maya says, “You can start from zero and succeed … whatever you do, whatever you want to do, you can do it so long as you believe in yourself and your abilities.”

Join Maya and be a part of The Refugee Dictionary – Submit your definition here!

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