Fe­male pi­lot di­verts solo mis­sion to fly home

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

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.

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