Female Afghani Pilot Seeks Asylum In US


Afghanistan's first female air force pilot has requested political asylum in the U.S., angering many in her native country.

Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, 25, underwent flight training in the U.S., graduating in 2013. She completed a second training course Dec. 22 and was due back in Afghanistan two days later, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But she has no plans to return home, citing death threats both she and her family have received from Afghans.

"I would love to fly for my country -- that is what I always wanted to do," Rahmani said. "But I'm scared for my life."

She has applied for asylum in the U.S., despite warnings from Afghanistan's authorities that asylum-seeking pilots would be deported back to Afghanistan and arrested.

"Everything I went through, all my suffering, was because I really wanted to fly," Rahmani said. "That was my dream."

Her story is controversial in conservative Afghanistan, with some praising her courage and others making threats on her life.

The threats came not only from the Taliban, but also Rahmani's relatives, who saw her career in a traditionally male-dominated field as an affront to the family. Her immediate family has had to move every few months to avoid being attacked. Her brother has already been attacked twice.

Many social media users in Afghanistan are harshly critical of Rahmani.

"Niloofar Rahmani took a million dollars from the pockets of the people of Afghanistan to pay human traffickers to get to America to seek asylum," read a typical Facebook comment, according to Reuters.

Despite the condemnation and the attacks on her family, Afghani authorities deny Rahmani's life would be in danger if she returned home.

"When an officer complains of insecurity and is afraid of security threats, then what should ordinary people do?" Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said, according to Reuters. "She has made an excuse for herself, but we have hundreds of educated women and female civil right activists who work and it is safe for them."

Rahmani's lawyer, Kimberly Motley, does not agree.

"There are great concerns for her safety if she returns," she told The Wall Street Journal. "The threats she has received have been well documented. Unfortunately, some of her superiors within the Afghan military have failed in their duty to protect her."

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, Reuters / Photo credit: U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons

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