Graduating from refugee to Afghanistan’s second female pilot

Sky is the limit for Captain Safia Ferozi (26), who is in a high-flying career fighting the Taliban insurgency.

From a childhood as a refugee, Captain Safia Ferozi is now flying a transport plane for Afghanistan’s air force as the country’s second female pilot, a sign of the efforts to bring more women into the armed forces.
Along the way, Ms. Ferozi (26) also married another pilot, who flies in the same unit supporting army ground forces. They are part of a small Afghan air force that is trying to take a greater role in fighting the Taliban insurgency.
She flies a turboprop
“When I wear military uniform, I really, really feel proud of myself as a woman,” Ms. Ferozi said while preparing for a flight at the air force base in the capital, Kabul. She flies a C-208, a turboprop plane used as transport for the armed forces.
Nearly 16 years since the collapse of the militant Taliban regime after the United States-led invasion in 2001, Afghan women are taking steps to increase their presence in society, including in parliament, government and the military. Still, they face resistance in a deeply conservative society where women are largely expected to stay in the home and where violence against women remains a widespread problem.
Fled Kabul for Pakistan
When she was a child, Ms. Ferozi’s family fled from their home in Kabul in the 1990s, during the civil war among Afghanistan’s warlords. They took refuge in Pakistan, returning only after the fall of the Taliban.
In high school in post-Taliban Afghanistan, Ms. Ferozi saw a TV commercial urging women to join the military. So after graduation she enrolled in the military academy, studying to become a communication officer. Then it was announced at the academy that the air force was looking for women to become pilots.
Ms. Ferozi and 12 other women applied, and she was the only one who passed the tests to enter training.
Piloting a family
While she was training at an airfield in the western province of Herat, she first met Capt Mohammad Jawad Najafi, the pilot who would later become her husband. They married nearly two years ago, and he has since backed her ambitions.
She graduated from training in 2015. She gave birth to their first child, daughter Nergis, now nearly 8 months old, and is back on flying missions.
Five other women are currently going through training to become pilots in the country’s air force.

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