Maya Ghazal, female Syrian refugee and pilot-to-be, makes solo flight

"We just want to be viewed as normal human beings," said Ghazal, who is working to become the first female Syrian refugee pilot.

An airplane belonging to CAA's commercial aviation academy (photo credit: CAA)
An airplane belonging to CAA's commercial aviation academy
(photo credit: CAA)
Maya Ghazal, a Syrian refugee residing in the UK, is taking her dream of becoming a pilot to new heights.
As part of its "Everyone Counts" campaign, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and British actor Douglas Booth, who recently played Nikki Sixx in Netflix's The Dirt, accompanied Ghazal on a flight and watched her make her first solo journey.
When talking about flying, Ghazal oozes with passion. "I fell in love with the adrenaline and how you feel up in the air; how you have control of your path, where you go and [that] you draw it," she said in the UNHRC's video. "You decide, and nothing is really limiting you."
Damascus-native Ghazal joined her father in the UK after the situation in Syria became too dangerous.
"Civil war in Syria started eight years ago. In the end, it [was] just not bearable anymore. Electricity, water and going to school were not safe anymore," she told Booth.
When speaking about her refugee status, Ghazal said that, "we just want to be viewed as normal human beings, with normal potentials, and hopes and dreams and futures that we want to build."
After the interview, Ghazal flew Booth in a small plane and then landed to drop him off so that she could make her first solo flight, a major milestone on the path to becoming a pilot.
Upon arriving in the UK, she thought her troubles were over, but Ghazal still struggled. "When I started going to schools and I started getting rejected from schools, I felt that they would look at me in a down way, [that] I was like someone who they thought was uneducated, unskilled, unfit to be in a school." That's when she says she realized that "education is my right – they can't just reject me."
Ghazal's message, however, was not just about following her dreams: It was about what education means to refugees like her.
"Maya showed me how investing in education is the most powerful way to help them create a better future for themselves – and for everyone else," Booth wrote on his Instagram.
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Ghazal also posted the video on her Instagram, saying: "Every voice counts. Every action counts. Everyone counts. There is [sic] approximately 70 million refugees worldwide, they are not just numbers, it's children mothers and fathers, dreams and ambition, future and hopes."
She has given TED talks and is outspoken about her journey; she made a YouTube video explaining her story.
As of October 2018, Ghazal has been pursuing Aviation Engineering with Pilot Studies at Brunel University London, according to TEDx.