Khaled Hosseini
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

A Writer Who Remembers

Born in Kabul in 1965, acclaimed Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini knows what it’s like to be a refugee. He was a teenager living in Paris, where his father worked as an Afghan diplomat, when the Soviet Union invaded his homeland on Christmas Eve 1979. His family was granted political asylum in the United States. While Hosseini grew up in California, where he went on to qualify as a doctor, war continued to ravage his homeland.

“When UNHCR asked me to work with them, I didn’t think twice. As a native of Afghanistan, a country with one of the world’s largest refugee populations, the refugee issue is one that is close and dear to my heart. It is a privilege to try to capture public attention and to use my access to media to give voice to victims of humanitarian crises.”

Involvement with UNHCR

Khaled Hosseini, initially appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Envoy in 2006, was made a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2013 in recognition of his tireless work on behalf of refugees. He has made multiple visits to the field, including his native Afghanistan to spotlight the ongoing humanitarian needs of millions of Afghans, to Chad, to highlight the plight of refugees from Darfur, and most recently to Jordan, to illuminate dire conditions for millions of people fleeing horrific violence in Syria. As a Goodwill Ambassador, Hosseini serves as a public advocate for refugees, regularly using his access to the media to give voice to victims of humanitarian crises. He also continues to advocate and raise awareness of refugee issues and UNHCR’s operations – including annual World Refugee Day commemorations and other flagship events such as the Nansen Refugee Award – via his multiple online and social media platforms.

Khaled Hosseini, Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, visits Syrian refugees in Norther Iraq
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Khaled Hosseini, Kawergosk camp for Syrian refugees, Iraq. Photo Credit: UNHCR/Brian Sokol

Going back to his native country of Afghanistan with UNHCR, Hosseini admitted to sometimes suffering from survivor’s guilt for having been able to leave the country before the descent into chaos. Nevertheless, the trips were very valuable to him. During his 2007 visit, Hosseini visited villages in the north and spoke to refugee returnees and saw the work of UNHCR in providing assistance. Inspired by what he had experienced, he set up The Khaled Hosseini Foundation to provide humanitarian assistance. Since then, Hosseini’s foundation has raised funds and constructed homes for thousands of returnees. The foundation also supports UNHCR projects providing employment, education opportunities and health care for women and children. It awards scholarships to women pursuing higher education in Afghanistan or training to become doctors in their country.

In March 2014, Hosseini visited Northern Iraq to highlight the plight of refugees from Syria. The experience reaffirmed his belief in the importance of delivering high-quality humanitarian assistance to those who are made most vulnerable by armed conflict around the world. Khaled has since spoken out against the crisis in Syria, and has been a major supporter of UNHCR’s Syria emergency campaign, through newspaper articles, OpEds, television interviews and social media.

About Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini, Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, visits Syrian refugees in Norther Iraq
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Khaled Hosseini, Darashakran camp for Syrian refugees, Iraq. Photo Credit: UNHCR/Brian Sokol

In March 2001, Hosseini began writing his first novel, “The Kite Runner,” which was set in his native Kabul. The book became an international bestseller when it was published in 2003, selling in at least 70 countries and spending more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It tells the story of Amir, a young boy in Kabul and is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the Soviet military intervention to the exodus of refugees to Pakistan and Iran, and the harsh rule of the Taliban regime.

A film based on “The Kite Runner” was released in 2007, the same year that his second novel, “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It remained in that spot for 15 weeks. The book spans a period of more than 40 years in Afghanistan, from the 1960s to 2003, focusing on two Afghan women, Mariam and Laila.

Hosseini’s third novel, “And the Mountains Echoed,” was published in 2013. It tells of the relationship between Abdullah, aged 10, and his three-year-old sister Pari, and their father’s decision to sell her to a childless couple in Kabul, an event that ties the various narratives together. The book takes readers to the refugee camps in Pakistan and portrays some of the challenges facing refugee returnees to Afghanistan. For the book tour, Hosseini made a film highlighting the work of his Foundation in partnership with UNHCR. At each stop of his multi-city international tour, the film was screened and led to wider discussion of the refugee situation in Afghanistan and how people could help refugees and refugee returnees in Afghanistan.

Hosseini lives in northern California with his wife and two children.