Ever since the Taliban has taken over Afghanistan, the lives of Afghans have changed for worse. Especially the lives of minorities and women in the country. The short lived period of limited freedom of Afghan women has now come to an end. One such woman was the first female commander in the Afghan Air Force, Safia Ferozi. Safia fought against all the odds and joined the Afghan air force becoming only the second female pilot in the force. After Taliban took over Afghanistan, the rumors that she was stoned to death by the Taliban regime started to spread widely on Social Media.
Lt. Col. Safia Ferozi spoke to us candidly recollecting her fond memories till they lasted and about how broken she is now. Before we dive into Safia’s account of the catastrophic events that has brought her life back to a full circle, let’s check out the false rumors about her stoning on social media.
FALSE SOCIAL MEDIA RUMORS
Some social media users started a rumor on Twitter in mid-August claiming Safia Ferozi was stoned to death by Taliban. As a proof of these claims, these users shared a picture of a bloodied woman begging for mercy as a mob stones her to death. It was later debunked by many fact checkers that the photo was not of Safia but of a 27 year old helpless woman, Farkhunda Malikzada, who was lynched to death and set ablaze by a group of men for allegedly disrespecting the Qur’an in 2015.
In Afghanistan and Iran too, the rumors about Safia’s death started surfacing on social media and mainstream media. One such example can be seen below:
The above post is posted by the Facebook page of a Persian news organization called Manoto TV and had received almost 2K shares. The rough translation of the Persian caption of the post is as follows:
“Safia Ferozi, one of the four female Afghan air force pilots was stoned to death by the Taliban. She was the pilot of a C-208 transport aircraft who worked in the Afghan Air Force. As a child she along with her family had emigrated to Pakistan in 1990s, but returned to Kabul after Taliban was removed from power.”
Dismissing these rumors, Safia spoke exclusively to Fact Crescendo sharing her agony and despair over the turn of events. Here’s what she had to say:
“I am alive, safe and not in Afghanistan” said Safia while responding to her death rumors on social media. “I was in Afghanistan till the night of 14th August 2021. I was living at the base in Kabul, when everything changed suddenly. Our advisor told us to get into the C-17 Globemaster and leave the country as soon as possible. Thus, me my daughter and my husband got on board the C-17 and left Kabul for Qatar.”
Was receiving threats even before 14th August
Safia says, “Even before the Taliban taking over the country, I received threats from National Security and had to stay at the base most of the time. I had to step out very cautiously even to go to my own home.”
Left Afghanistan with the help of American Advisors
Safia says it was with America’s help that she and her family could escape from Kabul. She says, “It were our American advisors who helped us to get out of the country on the fateful day. We have got a great deal of support from the Americans, more than our own government.”
Concerned about Colleagues and Family in Afghanistan
“My fellow pilots and my family members are still stuck in Afghanistan. They have been trying to get US visa but haven’t got any help from anyone” says Safia as she expresses concern over her subordinate pilots and family members who are still in Afghanistan and other countries.
“I have struggled a lot, coming from the minority Hazara community and being a woman to get into the Afghan defense forces. I was the first woman to become a commander in Afghan Air force and my rank was that of Lieutenant Colonel. I used to see pride in the eyes of my family members and now they consider me a threat. Because of me, they will be targeted. My husband and I are the first pilot couple of Afghanistan and our families are still in Afghanistan. I am worried about them.”
Safia was pregnant when she boarded the plane
Safia was pregnant with her second child when she left Kabul on August 14th. She had to make a perilous journey in such a condition, but gladly she made it to Qatar without any harm. “When I left Kabul, I was pregnant with my second child. My second daughter was born on August 22nd in Qatar.” Just like many Afghan refugees, Safia’s baby had to open her eyes in a foreign country away from their people and born as a refugee.
Treated Like Just Another Refugee
“My colleagues call me and ask for help and I feel helpless, as no one here knows who I am. Nobody here has asked us about our safety or how we have been putting up. We are being treated just like other refugees coming from Afghanistan. I was an Afghan Air Force officer and a commander in Kabul but here I am just another Afghan refugee”, says Safia in anguish as she laments her present situation
The Afghan Government Had No Plans for Us
Describing the recalcitrance of the previous Afghan regime, Safia says, “The Afghan government and the ministry of defense had no plans for the situation. They left the Air Force pilots on their own. If it were up to me, I would have never left our pilots in such a mess. Some of them managed to escape with our aircraft while some had to escape in US aircrafts. Unfortunately, many of them have been left back in Afghanistan without any help.”
I Will Never Forget that Day in my Life
Recollecting the memories of the events that took place on 14th August 2021. She says how the day which she calls ‘doomsday’ and how it destroyed all her years she spent working hard to reach where she was and her future ambitions.
“I will never forget the day of 14th August in my life. The pilots were not informed about Taliban taking over, there were gunshots firing and chaos everywhere. We had no idea what was going on.”
“It was not easy for me being a woman from the Hazara community to become a pilot, but I achieved my dream through years of hard work. But that was not the end for me, I aspired to become the first female pilot general for my country. The night of August 14th took everything away from me. Now everything is done!”
We Had Hope for Afghanistan
“Even before the takeover, my life was not easy. I had to visit my daughter on Sundays and she would insist before me and my husband to stay. This was because even at her tender age, she understood that our lives were in danger and she might never be able to see us again. But even then we had a hope that one day everything will be alright and our country will be at peace.”
I am Here Physically, But My Mind is Still in Kabul
As she expresses concern over the poor economic situation in Afghanistan and the dangers in which her family members and relatives are living in. Worrying about her family, Safia gets emotional. She says, “There is no work in Afghanistan and no income. My relatives in the country are under threat. They are changing places for their safety. The situation is stressful and so painful for me. My mind is still in Kabul.”
Safia had a very difficult childhood and had to migrate to Pakistan as a refugee. When she came back to Afghanistan, she had big dreams. She chased those dreams and achieved remarkable success defeating all the odds stacked up against her. The events that unfolded on 14th August this year has brought her life back to a complete circle as she spends her life again as a refugee. As her past seems to be like a dream, which was beautiful till it lasted.
(Images Courtesy: Safia Ferozi)