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Open Skies
Open Skies ›
By Niloofar Rahmani, By Adam Sikes
Price 28.99

Cloth

Published Jul 2021

Niloofar Rahmani was born in 1991 in Kabul, Afghanistan, just a few years after the Soviets left. During the rise of the Taliban, her father took his young family to Pakistan, where they lived for nine years as refugees. Then, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the international coalition's invasion, the Rahmani family returned to their home in Kabul. In 2010, for the first time since the Soviets, Afghanistan allowed women to join the armed forces, and Niloofar entered Afghanistan's military academy. However, the professed openness of the new Afghan military could not surmount centuries of chauvinism. Niloofar had to break through social barriers to demonstrate confidence, leadership, and decisiveness—essential qualities for a combat pilot. Against the odds, Niloofar performed the first solo flight of her class—ahead of all her male classmates—and in 2013 became Afghanistan's first female fixed-wing air force pilot. Yet some Afghan soldiers refused to fly with her, while others disparaged and harassed her. In 2014 the Taliban threatened Niloofar, her father lost his job, and extended family members disavowed them. The US State Department honored Niloofar with the International Women of Courage Award and sent her to the United States to meet Michelle Obama and fly with the US Navy's Blue Angels. But when she returned to Kabul, the danger to her and her family had increased significantly, forcing them to move every few months. In 2015 the US military brought Niloofar back to the US to learn to fly C-130s, but before graduation she learned she couldn't go home, and requested political asylum. She was granted US asylum in 2018, and her family is still in hiding. 
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