As the first female airplane pilot in Afghanistan, Niloofar Rahmani became a powerful symbol of what women could accomplish in the post-Taliban era. But in the ultraconservative country, the limelight also brought threats, sending her into hiding from insurgents and vengeful relatives.
Now, more than three years after she earned her wings, the 25-year-old Afghan air force pilot hopes to start a new life in the U.S. where she has applied for asylum, saying her life would be in danger if she returns home.
Capt. Rahmani went to the U.S. in the summer of 2015 to train on C-130 transport planes with the U.S. Air Force. The course ended Thursday, and under the terms of her training stint, she was due to go back to Afghanistan on Saturday. She won’t be going.
“I would love to fly for my country—that is what I always wanted to do,” Capt. Rahmani said from Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas, where she completed the flight training. “But I’m scared for my life.”