In 2011, Ehsan Bayat became a senator in a house of Afghanistan’s National Assembly known as the Meshrano Jirga. At just 17 years of age in 1980, as Russia invaded his homeland of Afghanistan, he fled to the United States and attended the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Earning American citizenship, Bayat worked diligently in many successful endeavors in his adopted country, a blueprint for what would come in the future.
The fall of the Taliban regime and an end to U.S. sanctions against the country of his birth led Bayat to return, intent on improving life for the average Afghan citizen. In 2002, Bayat founded Afghan Wireless, a cellular phone company covering its major cities and most outlying areas that services over three million customers. His vision was to rebuild his native country and in implementing his plans, he has become the largest private investor of American citizenship in Afghanistan’s history. In 2005, Bayat founded Ariana TV, a network providing viewers throughout Afghanistan with variety shows featuring music, cooking, education and live call-in formats. The network enjoys popular success and is ranked third in the country.
Not content with transforming Afghanistan’s telecommunications, Bayat is using his considerable wealth and business stature to promote charitable causes as well. The Bayat Foundation was set up to provide much needed funding to focus on women’s issues, children’s needs and gaps in society not addressed by other aid foundations. Some of the humanitarian efforts include providing gynecological and maternity health care for women that involves care of the infant after it is born. These efforts are having an impact in helping to reduce Afghanistan’s alarmingly high infant mortality rate. Other women’s issues addressed by the foundation include access to educational materials, financial and nutritional support, aid in the form of microloans and services addressing physical and mental health.
Afghanistan has many orphans as a result of its war-torn history and the Bayat Foundation has rebuilt existing schools, designed entirely new facilities and provided educational materials, monetary support and housing for children in need throughout the country. The foundation hopes tackle Afghanistan’s high illiteracy rate by providing a strong educational base from which students can grow. Disaster relief and clean water initiatives are also a high priority for the foundation, with hundreds of new wells providing safe drinking water and an aid network in place in the event of landslides, earthquakes or floods. There is also extensive sports sponsorship, with the idea of inspiring Afghan youths to great achievements in solo and team sports.
Bayat is the recipient of the Mahatma Gandhi Humanitarian Award, which he received in 2010, and his efforts in improving the lives of millions of Afghans has been reflected in the honorary naming of a building on the American University of Afghanistan’s campus, awarding him an honorary degree in philosophy at the same time. As he looks toward the future, this senator, businessman and philanthropist’s works continue to inspire others and improve the lives of his countrymen, turning no one in need away.