SALT LAKE CITY — The first woman to ever stand against the Taliban in open protest is now living in the Beehive State thanks to local organizations partnering with folks across the world.
Crystal Bayat caught the world’s attention in August as she walked the streets of Kabul Afghanistan, days after the Taliban took over.
Getting Bayat to Utah was no small feat, and now that she’s here, Bayat hopes to use her freedom to save those left behind.
Stacks of books and online classes are pieces of Bayat's new life in Utah.
“I love to learn English," said Bayat. "It was my dream.”
The 24-year-old has been living this dream for a month now, after evacuating Kabul.
"Life is beautiful with people in Utah," said Bayat.
Beautiful, yet bittersweet.
Bayat's heart is still in Afghanistan with her people -- people who lost their freedom on August 15th.
“That day, all of my dreams died," said Bayat. "Not only mine, but the dreams of million women in Afghanistan died.”
Bayat had recently returned from India, where she had studied and graduated with her master's degree.
It was there that Bayat learned what freedom felt like -- to be treated fairly as a woman.
When she returned home to Kabul, she decided to "talk with the Taliban face to face."
With such determination, Bayat joined protesters who walked the streets on Afghanistan's Independence Day -- she was the only woman until her mother joined her.
Bayat's involvement was unprecedented, putting her immediately into the world spotlight and in immediate danger.
“I never wanted to leave Afghanistan, but I had no choice," said Bayat.
As Bayat watched others evacuate, she said it broke her heart.
"When I saw people who fell from the planes, I fell with them too," said Bayat.
Bayat and her sister were miraculously put in touch with Attorney General Sean Reyes's team along with their international connections.
Like so many Afghans, Bayat already had her Special Immigrant Visa ready to go. Yet, getting her into the country proved "Herculean."
Reyes said seeing Bayat reach the U.S. then walk off the plane in Salt Lake City was a moment he'll never forget.
“I want her to know that I view her as a superhero," said Reyes. "She is one of my heroes."
A superhero that is still fighting for her people.
Bayat said her work has just begun and that her voice is raised for Afghan women who cannot speak out for themselves.
“My heart will always be in Afghanistan with the people of Afghanistan," said Bayat. "I promise for the people of Afghanistan to work for them and to serve for them.”
Bayat is working to help her parents evacuate Afghanistan.
In the meantime, Bayat hopes to pursue her doctorate and write a book about her experiences and people.
Reyes and his team are still helping Afghan refugees. If you'd like to support Bayat, her family, or other Afghan refugees, Reyes said to reach out to them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.