This Taliban-Defying Woman Is Afghanistan’s First Female Air Force Pilot

Sameera Ehteram
Nothing could keep this woman from achieving her dream - not even the Taliban.

This 23-year-old has the guts to overcome any obstacles. Niloofer Rahmani is the first female fixed-wing Air Force aviator in Afghanistan's history and the first female pilot in the Afghani military since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. She is also the recipient of the U.S. State Department's International Women of Courage Award for 2015.

Ever since Rahmani was a kid, she wanted to be a pilot. When she was 18 she learned that the Afghan Air Force wanted to recruit pilots, and saw the possibility of her dream coming true.  Two years later, she was recruited in the Afghan Air Force Officer Training Program and in July 2012 Rahmani graduated as a second lieutenant. 

Her passion has landed her in a lot of trouble – not only with her conservative relatives but the Taliban as well. The family had to move and relocate more than once and in 2013, threats from the terrorist organization forced her to move abroad for two months.

“You can't just see yourself as a woman, but as a human and believe in yourself,” Rahmani told WTKR. “It was not easy finishing flight school, it was very hard, but someone had to accept the risk so that other women can do what they dream.”

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Rahmani is only one of three Afghan women who have trained to become pilots since the 2001 invasion, and one of them has since quit the air force.

Though she is hopeful about more women joining the air force, she thinks it will probably take 20 to 30 years. “Now my goal is to help my country have a bright future and stand up for females. I helped break down the doors for them after me,” Rahmani said in a story published on the website of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

Afghanistan, a conservative Muslim country, is one of the least women-friendly places in the world. According to U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan Jan Kubis, violence linked to culture is the main reason for a 20 percent rise in deaths and injuries of females in Afghanistan.

But that hasn’t stopped its brave women from dreaming or making their dreams come true. Women like Azra Jafari, the first female mayor in Afghanistan, Colonel Jamila Bayaz, the country’s first female district police chief and Fawzia Koofi, a member of the Afghan parliament, who one day wants to be elected the president of the country are the trailblazers who have paved way for the future generations of Afghan women.

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