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Afghanistan’s 1st woman pilot, 25, is seeking asylum in the U.S.

By WITW Staff on December 29, 2016

Captain Niloofar Rahmani, who made history in 2013 by becoming Afghanistan’s first female pilot, last week said she is seeking asylum in the U.S. Rahmani, a member of the Afghan Air Force, had been in the U.S. for the last 18 months taking part in a training course. Her decision to request asylum comes after she’s been subjected to years of death threats — some from expected sources, like the Taliban, and others from surprising sources, like members of her family.

Now, the decision to not return home is sparking outrage and drawing criticism from members of the Afghan military. And Rahmani is facing new threats — the specter of being charged with desertion by the Air Force if she doesn’t return within 30 days, The Wall Street Journal reported Afghanistan’s defense ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Radmanish said. “Those who are scared of war should not join the army,” Mohammad said. “She is just making excuses to stay there.”

In a picture taken on April 26, 2015, Afghanistan’s first female pilot Niloofar Rahmani sits in a fixed-wing Afghan Air Force aviator aircraft in Kabul. (SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)

As is often the case with women who break glass ceilings, Rahmani faced opposition almost immediately. Even though some in Afghanistan viewed Rahmani as a heroic example for women and girls, extremists like the Taliban, notorious for being anti-woman, took issue with her flying planes and ordered her to quit the job. And so did some distant relatives, who subscribe to antiquated gender stereotypes and accused her of bringing shame on the family.

“It’s like a witch hunt,” Kimberley Motley, Rahmani’s U.S. lawyer, said of the pilot’s time serving in the military and the decision to seek asylum. “The angry responses that she and her family have received in Afghanistan further confirms that her life would be in danger if she were to return.”

Rahmani’s lawyer isn’t the only one to speak out on why the groundbreaking pilot has faced such a harsh backlash. A woman who until recently worked in Afghanistan’s defense ministry and a political commentator also weighed in on who is to blame for the horrible situation Rahmani is now trying to avoid.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.


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