First female pilot in Afghan air force granted asylum in U.S.

Niloofar Rahmani said she wants to continue flying in the United States, either as a commercial pilot or with the U.S. Air Force. File Photo courtesy of Niloofar Rahmani

May 2 (UPI) — The United States has granted asylum to Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female pilot in the Afghan air force, after multiple death threats against her and her family at home, the pilot’s lawyer said.

The 27-year-old learned of the approval Monday, 16 months after she first sought asylum.

“I’m really happy and thankful to all the people who made this [being granted asylum] happen,” she told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “All I want now is to go back to my dream of flying.”

Kimberly Motley, Rahmani’s lawyer, said her client received death threats from insurgents and members of her extended family, as well as condemnation from Afghan government officials. She first came to the United States in 2015 for training.

Motley said Rahmani’s family has relocated several times due to death threats.

“If she were to return to Afghanistan, she would be in fear of her safety,” Motley said.

In 2013, Rahmani, 25, became Afghanistan’s first female fixed-wing pilot. She received the U.S. Department of State’s International Women of Courage Award in 2015, when she was praised by former first lady Michelle Obama.

“Rahmani is as committed to encouraging other young women to follow in her footsteps now as she was as an 18-year-old dreaming of flight school,” Obama said during the ceremony.

Rahmani said she wants to continue flying — either as a commercial pilot or for the U.S. Air Force.

“She wants to continue to encourage other Afghan women to go into the field of aviation, she wants to support her government where she can and she wants to continue to fly,” Motley told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Afghan Ministry of Defense spokesman Mohammad Radmanish told the WSJ that Rahmani “has the right to live where she wants.”


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