Female pilot diverts solo mission to fly home
KABUL: An Afghan-American female pilot on a solo flight around the world seeking to inspire young women, has taken a detour to visit her native Afghanistan – and meet the country’s president and civil society activists seeking to safeguard women’s rights.
Shaesta Waiz left her single-engine plane in Dubai to take a commercial flight to Kabul where she arrived on Monday night.
The 29-year-old said her Beechcraft Bonanza A36 was not suited for flying over the mountainous terrain of her native country.
Waiz, the first female pilot from Afghanistan, began her journey in Florida in May and has since made stops in 11 countries, with eight more to complete her mission.
“The whole purpose is not to set a world record,” Waiz said during a welcoming ceremony by government officials and civil society activists in Kabul.
“The purpose of this trip is to inspire young girls and boys to believe in themselves, to believe in what they are capable of doing, regardless of where they are from or the challenges you have faced in your life.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed Waiz at his office later in the evening and told her how much he admired her courage. Waiz, in turn, promised Afghan women that once her world trip was over, she would come back and find ways to help them.
Much has changed for Afghan women since the Taliban were ejected from power 16 years ago.
During their rule, women could not attend school or work, were largely confined to their homes, and subject to public beatings for violations of strict rules on what they could wear in public.
Now, millions of Afghan girls go to school, compared to practically none in 2001, and many women work for the government and security services, run their own businesses, and are elected into parliament.
In 1987, Waiz and her family moved to the US where she got her pilot’s licence, becoming the youngest certified female pilot from Afghanistan.
She took off from Daytona Beach in Florida in May and has mapped out a route that will take her approximately 25 800km around 19 countries before going back to the US in August.
Waiz’s father, Fahim Waiz Atghandiwal, who accompanied her on the visit to Kabul, said every girl needed the support of her family to turn dreams into reality.
After returning to Dubai, Waiz said she would continue her voyage to India as she sought to become the first Afghan-American woman to accomplish a solo flight around the world. – AP
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, right, shakes hands with AfghanAmerican female pilot Shaesta Waiz, left, at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan.