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Defying Odds, This Muslim Girl Now Kashmir’s First Female Pilot

SRINAGAR – “A Kashmiri girl can’t don the role of a pilot”, she was told. But Iram Habib’s dream to become a commercial pilot was too  strong to brush aside, so she shared it with her parents after cracking Class 12th exams.

Although she managed to persuade her parents, it took her six years to convince them.

“Somehow, the dream to fly an aircraft was in me all through my years of education,” Habib, the daughter of a businessman, told Ummid in an interview on August 31.

The Muslim young lady completed her first degree in forestry from Dehradun and post-graduate in forestry from the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

While Habib’s family wanted her to pursue PhD in forestry and get a government job, she kept looking for options to train as a pilot.

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“I pursued PhD for one and a half years but left it and went to a US flight school,” she says. “I looked for things on my own and kept my dream alive.”

Iram completed her training from Miami in the US in 2016 and returned to Kashmir to get a commercial pilot licence, as the Muslim region’s first female pilot, but the journey wasn’t easy.

Not Easy Way

“I had to study hard and pass exams. In the US, I had 260 hours of flying experience which is important for the licence. I got a commercial pilot licence in the US and Canada on the basis of my flying hours but I wanted to work in homeland,” she explained.

“Dad supported me but my relatives and friends kept telling me that a girl from Kashmir would never get a job as a pilot,” Habib admitted with a smile after succeeding in proving the opposite.

The female pilot says that it’s difficult for her relatives even now to believe that she flies an aircraft. “They still can’t believe I chose this profession and got a job too,” Habib says, adding she had also trained in Bahrain and Dubai in Airbus 320.

“During my training and exams everyone would be surprised to see a woman from Kashmir as a pilot, but there was no discrimination. I worked hard and got a job offer from IndiGo and GoAir. I am set to join as a first officer in IndiGo next month,” Habib informed happily.

According to a 2015 Pakistani estimate, the total population of Kashmir was about 16 million people where over 95% of which are Muslims.