“If I can get a plane to take off, I can do anything”: Afghan woman pilot refuses to be grounded

“If I can get a plane to take off, I can do anything”: Afghan woman pilot refuses to be grounded

Sliving alone in her small apartment in Bulgaria, Mohadese Mirzaee looks to the future. Three months ago, she left her family and her dream job in Afghanistan. At 23, Mirzaee was the country’s first female commercial airline pilot.

“Today I don’t know where to go, but I’m not giving up. I started applying for pilot jobs anywhere because I know I have to get back to piloting, ”she says by phone from the capital, Sofia.

When news of the Taliban’s capture of Kabul broke, Mirzaee was already at the airport in uniform, preparing for his evening flight to Istanbul. She had left the house early that morning, greeting her mother and two sisters.

The flight never took off. As thousands of Afghans stormed the city’s international airport, desperately seeking to leave the country, Mirzaee was diverted to a flight to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev – this time as a passenger.

“It was dark when we took off, that’s all I remember,” she said. “It was a roller coaster of emotions because it all happened so fast. I couldn’t believe Kabul had fallen. When I left my house in the morning and said goodbye to my family, I could not have imagined that in the evening I would definitely leave home.

“I saw my country collapsing,” she recalls.

Months earlier, Mirzaee had made headlines as the pilot of a Kam Air Boeing 737 – the country’s first flight with an all-female crew.

“This was a huge accomplishment for Afghanistan and for the male-dominated aviation industry in general,” says Mirzaee. She believed then that a change in the country’s conservative society was possible and that she and the airline would be a part of it.

But when the Taliban established an all-male government that saw hundreds of women sacked, Mirzaee says she was robbed of her hopes for the future.

“Afghan women have done wonders over the past decades. We have used all the opportunities available to us. We fought for our rights and achieved great achievements. I hoped that a window had opened. I was approached by many young women who also dreamed of becoming a pilot, ”explains Mirzaee.

“I hope that another airline will give me a chance to continue my career,” says Mohadese Mirzaee. “I will fight for my passion. “ Photograph: handout

“With the Taliban takeover, everything disappeared. They are the same barbaric group that they were in the past and they want to silence women. If I let go of my passion, they achieved their goal.

Mirzaee attended the Afghan-Turkish Maarif School in Kabul, but completed her senior year in Port Colborne, Canada, where she first considered a career in aviation.

She stayed in Canada for another year after graduation, working as a cashier and barista to raise money for flying lessons.

“My flight instructor told me, ‘you are in control, so fly the plane’ before taking off for my very first flight. I was nervous, but I also felt free. I thought to myself that if I could fly a plane in the sky, I could do anything, ”she says.

Back in Afghanistan, Mirzaee spoke to airlines to see if she could continue her training, but they all said no at first. “I kept annoying them,” she laughs.

« Kam Air, one of the Afghan aircraft carriers, decided to give me a chance – and I took it very seriously.

She became Afghanistan’s first female commercial airline pilot in September last year, flying to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and India.

Mirzaee was able to travel to Bulgaria on a pre-existing visa. He has just expired and has been advised to apply for asylum.

Her mother and sisters were also evacuated from Afghanistan and flew to Albania the same day explosions ravaged crowds outside Kabul airport, killing nearly 200 people and injuring people. hundreds more.

Most of his friends are now scattered around the world.

“When I was studying, my mother always told me to come back to Afghanistan and work for my country. I shared his conviction. But today, although I would like to go back, I cannot. There is no more room for women like me in Afghanistan. I lost my job, my house, my team – everything. “

But she said, “I hope another airline will give me a chance to continue my career. I was taken a lot, but I will fight for my passion. That’s what makes me, me.

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