Professor of Gender and War. University of Sydney

Afghanistan’s First Female Military Pilot Faces Death Threats and Isolation

SUMMARY: Captain Niloofar Rahmani is Afghanistan’s first female fixed-wing military pilot but is facing serious cultural and structural barriers, so will be leaving after 2 years of service. Rahmani, in an interview in 2012 when she first joined the Afghan Air Force was a vocal advocate for gender equality in Afghanistan, saying “I decided to join the military to be an example for others.” Now, Rahmani and her family face death threats from the Taliban (including the Pakistan Taliban – Tehrik-e Taliban Swat) as well as members of her extended family for “daring to work in the male-dominated world of military aviation.” Rahmani has been recently publicised by the US-led coalition who frame her achievements through the narrative of a young, progressive “post 9/11 generation” Afghan who is challenging cultural traditions. In March 2015 the US Department of State honoured Captain Rahmani with an International Women of Courage Award, for the risks she took for her career, however, it was not recognised in Afghanistan. Over the last 2 years, Rahmani and her family had to temporarily flee to India and upon their return the Afghan Air Force asked Rahmani to quit as she had “abandoned duty.” Eventually, with the help of the US-led coalition she retained her position. The Air Force has been largely unsupportive of Rahmani, which has caused her to recently leave the forces.

SOURCE: Margherita Stancati, August 4 2015, ‘In Afghanistan, Death Threats Shatter Dream of First Female Pilot,’ The Wall Street Journal,

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