“She wanted to be a female pilot and defend her country, and she does not believe being a woman must prevent her from her dream”.
Niloofar Rahmani was born in 1991 in Afghanistan. Since she was a child, she dreamed of flying over Afghanistan’s sky. So, she started to improve her English to enrol in a flight school. She was able to enter the pilot training course of the Afghan Air Force in 2010 and graduated from the school in 2012 with the rank of second lieutenant.
She considers her father as her motivator, accompanying her on training flights and constantly motivating her. Her success of the flight allowed her to enter the military arena with male pilots and perform various missions.
Four decades of successive wars, ethnic tensions, and miss-interpretation of Islamic teachings have led to anti-woman social norms and hindering social presence of women outside of home. Afghan women during the Taliban rule did not have the right to leave their homes unless accompanied by their fathers, brothers and husbands with covering their whole body. After the weakening of the Taliban, the lack of central government and the repeated opposition of ethnic leaders, along with the Taliban’s threats, the state and the economy became weaker. However, Niloofar had several chances comparing to other Afghan to still reclaim her rights and fight for them. She was born in an urban environment and in a family that denies gender differences. She always considers her family as the main factor in her success.
Her family always accompanied her, even when they were threatened with death by the Taliban that if Niloofar continued to fly, all members of the family would be killed.
In 2015, the German language newspaper “Bild” named her as the most beautiful pilot in the world. Niloofar Rahmani is the only female pilot in the country’s air force who has participated in several air operations in the country. She also won the 2015 International Brave Woman Award in Washington, DC.
She successfully flew her first solo flight on a US Cisna 182 four-seater. Captain Rahmani can now fly warplanes and transport planes. International media have hailed her as the first female fighter pilot since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
After years of service in the Afghan army, she was finally forced to seek asylum in the United States in 2018 due to many threats from Taliban. However, she did her mission for giving us this message that even in piloting as a masculine job, gender could not play any role. Her motivation can be a beacon for many women.
Written by WAVE intern Homa Bazafkan
Daughters of Greatness: Capt. Niloofar Rahmani – Muhammad Ali Center | Be Great :: Do Great Things
One Of Afghanistan’s First Women Air Force Pilots Is Living In Exile In Florida (buzzfeednews.com)
BBC World Service – The Conversation, Pilots: Niloofar Rahmani and Esther Mbabazi