An Underground Journey with Afghan Refugees

In The Naked Don’t Fear the Water by 2017 National Fellow Matthieu Aikins, a young Afghan driver and translator named Omar makes the heart-wrenching choice to flee his war-torn country, saying goodbye to Laila, the love of his life, without knowing when they might be reunited again. He is one of millions of refugees who leave their homes that year.

Aikins, a journalist living in Kabul, decides to follow his friend. In order to do so, he must leave his own passport and identity behind to go underground on the refugee trail with Omar. Their odyssey across land and sea from Afghanistan to Europe brings them face to face with the people at heart of the migration crisis: smugglers, cops, activists, and the men, women and children fleeing war in search of a better life. As setbacks and dangers mount for the two friends, Matthieu is also drawn into the escape plans of Omar’s entire family, including Maryam, the matriarch who has fought ferociously for her children’s survival.

Harrowing yet hopeful, this exceptional work brings into sharp focus one of the most contentious issues of our times. The Naked Don’t Fear the Water is a tale of love and friendship across borders, and an inquiry into our shared journey in a divided world.

Join the New America Fellows Program, Matthieu Aikins and Candace Rondeaux, for a conversation about The Naked Don’t Fear the Water.

Follow the conversation online using #TNDFTW and follow us at @NAFellows.


Matthieu Aikins, @mattaikins
2017 National Fellow, New America
Author, The Naked Don’t Fear the Water

Candace Rondeaux, @CandaceRondeaux
Director, Future Frontlines, New America
Professor of Practice, Arizona State University

Copies of The Naked Don’t Fear the Water are available for purchase here through our bookselling partner Solid State Books.