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There's no place like a new Pittsburgh

His life endangered, an Afghan journalist fled his homeland with some help from friends.


By Carmen Gentile and Kim Palmiero | Photographs by Justin Merriman

Our Afghan friend and journalist Zubair Babakarkhail arrived in Pittsburgh this weekend with his family, capping off a months-long odyssey from his troubled and violent homeland to the relatively serene rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania. 

Postindustrial, along with other friends, supported Zubair’s escape from his homeland — a harrowing journey through Taliban checkpoints and frenzied mobs outside the Kabul airport to the Pittsburgh suburbs, where Zubair and his family are staying until they find a more permanent home in the region. 

On their first full day in Pittsburgh, our newly arrived Afghan friends wanted to take in the sights despite the frigid rain that blanketed the city this past weekend, riding the world-famous Incline and enjoying the drizzly view from Mount Washington. 

Zubair is keen to see more of Pittsburgh and Postindustrial America, and in the coming months, he’ll tell more stories of his and other new arrivals’ struggles in Postindustrial America. We look forward to sharing more of his stories and those of other Afghans who fled persecution and tyranny at home for a chance at a better life here. 

We’re also making a movie about Zubair’s arrival and transition to life in PI America. We started working on it the moment he and his family got off the plane, so we were on the lookout for selected scenes and the eventual release of a full-length film.


So keep checking back: You’ll hear more from Zubair soon, as he, his wife Fatima, and their three children get to know their adopted city and nation. 

Welcome to Pittsburgh, Babakarkhails. 

The region is a better place now that you’re here.

Postindustrial founder Carmen Gentile has worked for some of the world’s leading publications and news outlets including The New York Times, USA Today, CBS News and others. His book, “Blindsided by the Taliban,” documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan.

Kimberly Palmiero was CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Postindustrial Media from 2020 through 2023.

Justin Merriman is a freelance photojournalist who has traveled the world to cover politics, wars, natural disasters, civil unrest as well as covering assignments throughout the United States. His work has appeared in leading national publications and he has received multiple top journalism awards.

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