Afghan Biographies

Nabizada, Latifa Col. Mrs.

Name Nabizada, Latifa Col. Mrs.
Ethnic backgr. Pashtun
Date of birth 1972
Function/Grade MI-17 Helicopter Pilot
History and Biodata

3. Biodata:
nabizada_latifaCol. Latifa Nabizada was born 1972 in Afghanistan. At 17 she applied for a flight school. She vowed simply to out-work and out-smart her classmates so that no one could question her capabilities. So she graduated number one in the class of 72.· The real momentum came in the 1980s during the Soviet occupation, when thousands of men and women were trained to serve in the forces of Communist President Mohammad Najibullah. Latifa Nabizada began her career as a military helicopter pilot in 1988 when she was admitted to the Air Defence Academy, graduating three years later. Latifa and her sister, Lailuma, were the first female graduates from the Afghan Air force Academy, in 1980. It was a challenging endeavor but they graduated. Her sister Lailuma also graduated with her as a pilot but died during childbirth five years ago. This left Nabizada as the country’s only female pilot until the first group of fellow female pilots, now in training, gets its wings.

Since then she has logged more than 1,000 hours of flying time, interrupting her service only during the period of Taliban rule when her family fled to Pakistan, where she learned English. She returned after the ouster of the Taliban and rejoined the air force.

In the years since, Nabizada·earned the respect of her fellow pilots, many of whom she now considers to be her "brothers." The dangerous anti-Taliban missions they have flown together have further strengthened their bonds. At the Afghan Air Force base in Kabul, flight engineers, technicians and pilots all treated her with a reverence that seemed alien for Afghanistan.

She flew training missions while pregnant with her now-six-year-old daughter Malalai, and when she was born, Nabizada·had no choice but to bring the infant to work. "There was nobody to take care of her," she said. At two months old, Malalai began accompanying her mother as she piloted training missions, cradled in the arms of Nabizada's·engineer since there was no room for a crib on the flight deck.Today, the 40-year-old flies a well armed, Russian-built Mi-17 helicopter, delivering supplies to most of the country’s provinces, including areas of heavy combat where she has also evacuated wounded personnel.

‘Being a pilot and a mother is hard, actually,’ Nabizada says. ‘My husband is a doctor in the air force and we have no one to take care of her, so she comes with me every day. One day I’d like to see childcare in the air force.’

The U.S. military have asked her not to bring the child on missions or at least move her out of the cockpit, but Malalai will not stand it and she throws a tantrum. In any case, Latifa is confident of her skills as a pilot and is extra cautious with her daughter next to her. Latifa and her devoted partner fly to some of the most remote and dangerous areas of Afghanistan. The missions often involve supplying troops in remote areas or flying to disaster zones to help provide assistance.

Being a woman in the Afghan military is challenging but it has toughened Latifa. She is no longer harassed and cites an Afghan saying that roughly translates as " steel gets harder with the hammering."

Latifa the only woman pilot in the Afghan National Army's Air Corps blames the commander of the Afghan Air Corps, Major General Mohammad Dawran for the death of her 36-year-old sister and fellow aviator, Lailuma. She died on July 17, 2006 from complications during childbirth at Kabul's Rabia Balkhi Maternity Hospital.
Her relatives wanted the commander-in-chief of the Air Corps to send Lailuma  abroad for treatment. "The commander goes to foreign countries for his eye problem -- and even for a simple headache -- every month and year. Did Lailuma  not deserve it? I called on Dawran to come and transfer his pilot abroad for treatment," said her sister Latifa. But Wardak did not help. (20060802)


Latifa is married to a Doctor who is serving in the Afghan Air Force. She has a six year old daughter Malalai.

Nabizada speaks Pashtu, Dari, Urdu and English.

Two Afghan female pilots, Suraya Hassani and Massomeh Hussaini, who underwent a two-year aerial training course in the United States, joined the Afghan air force.(20121104)

Last Modified 2012-11-04
Established 2012-10-31