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Niloofar Rahmani, first female Afghan air force pilot, applies for U.S. asylum

By Andrew V. Pestano
Niloofar Rahmani, first female Afghan air force pilot, applies for U.S. asylum
Niloofar Rahmani, an Afghan air force captain who in 2013 became Afghanistan's first fixed-wing pilot, has applied for U.S. asylum over fears for her safety, citing death threats against her. Photo courtesy of Niloofar Rahmani

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Capt. Niloofar Rahmani, the first female pilot in the Afghan air force, has requested asylum in the United States over fears for her safety, her lawyer said.

Kimberly Motley, Rahmani's lawyer, told CNN Rahmani has received death threats from insurgents and condemnation from Afghan government officials. She has been training at air bases in the United States for the past year and most recently completed training in Little Rock, Ark.

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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 fixed-wing pilot. She received the U.S. Department of State's International Women of Courage Award in 2015, when she was praised by U.S. 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 a ceremony.

Rahmani said she wants to continue flying if her asylum request is granted -- either as a commercial pilot or for the U.S. Air Force.

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"I would love to fly for my country -- that is what I always wanted to do. But I'm scared for my life," Rahmani told The Wall Street Journal.

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