Asli Hassan Abade – First Female Military Pilot in Africa

Somalia, located in the African continent, is famous for hosting the continent’s most extraordinary people. One of them is the story of Asli Hassan Abade, Africa’s first female fighter pilot, who showed what African women could achieve in the 1970s.

somalia map
source: wikipedia

 We are going on a journey towards the end of the 1950s. Somalia was under the control of Britain and Italia. In 1958, Asli Hassan Abade, the daughter of the Abade family, a traditional Somali family, was born in the capital Mogadishu.

The Abade family moved into a house near Mogadishu Airport in the early 1960s. Asli, the youngest member of the Abade family, watched with curious eyes the landing and taking off of planes in Somalia with her nine siblings. Somalia was one of the safest countries in Africa at that time.


The 1960s were also the years when Somalia declared its independence from England and Italy. With the independence, a great wind of reform started at all levels of the state. Of course, it was not a coincidence that the Soviets turned its face to Africa, which gained its independence from Western countries due to the cold war period. Somalia expertise in every unit of the army with the help of the Soviets. So much so that they had the strongest air force in terms of Africa’s military attack capacity.

This aid of the Soviets, of course, was not free. A group of socialist officers in the Somali army seized power in a coup in 1969. Somalia was now a socialist country. The socialist government accelerated modernization with extensive work to strengthen the army. The pilot requirement of the Somali Air Force was aimed to be met by sending many pilot candidates from Somalia to the USA, Britain, italia and the Soviet Union.

According to Asli Hassan Abade, as a country that had just gained its independence in the 1970s, Somalia had a very dynamic and idealistic population. She believed that Somalia was one of Africa’s most progressive societies in those years.


Emphasizing that women were in all areas of society in Somalia in the 1970s, Abade thought that women were part of the government, and a significant number of women were actively involved in the navy, air force and ground forces. They taught at the university, they determined the future of Somalia in the ruling party. “Women were in all areas of society.”

Are you surprised how important the role of Somali women living in difficult conditions today was in 1970s Africa? Asli Hassan Abade was impressed by the fact that Somali women were in all areas of society at that time. In addition, she applied to the Somali Air Force for being pilot, which has been her dream since childhood. The Air Force sent her to Italy in 1976 for pilot training. Abade makes her first flights in Italy as the first and only female fighter pilot in Somali history.

After numerous flights in the Somali army, she moves to the USA, with her husband, whom she met and married while on a mission in the USA.

Although Asli Hassan Abade lived in the USA in 2011, then she returned to Mogadishu to provide medical supplies due to hunger and famine across the country that showed its bad face in Somalia. Abade witnesses that in those days Somalia did not only experience a humanitarian crisis, but was also under great threat from the terrorist organization Al-Shabaab. She can only stay one day in her beloved homeland.

asli hassan abade
Asli Hassan Abade

Asli Hassan Abade return to Mogadishu

When she returned to Mogadishu in 2017, a group of Somali pilots and officers greeted her at the airport. The feelings she experienced ‘‘ When I saw them, I couldn’t hold back my tears, hugged and cried. I also had some former colleagues among them. Then I kissed the ground. “I missed my homeland,” she told us.

Asli Hassan Abade is of the opinion that important developments have taken place in Somalia in recent years. She wants to share her experiences with the younger generations in order to ensure that her country reaches a more peaceful, prosperous and free future.

By her words ‘We had our time, our generation enjoyed its youth. Now we need to train and mentor today’s youth because the future lies with them…I would like to urge the Somali public and the government to strive for peace. When you have peace, you have life.’

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