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Afghanistan-woman
AP Photo/Mustafa Najafizada
Not behind the burqa.
BRAVE

Meet Afghanistan’s first woman taxi driver, who sleeps with a hunting rifle

By Shelly Walia

She is an outlier, but she couldn’t care less.

Sara Bahai is a single, 40-year-old woman who works as a taxi driver in conservative Afghanistan. In fact, she is the first and only Afghan female driver in recent memory.

Bahai became the breadwinner of her 15-member family after her brother-in-law was murdered by Taliban insurgents in the 1990s. Today, she financially supports her sister and her seven children, Bahai’s ailing mother and two adopted sons who study in high school. She did not marry because a husband, she believed, would never let her work. She earns between $10 and $20 daily.  

To get her license, she took a class with 30 other men. They weren’t exactly supportive. A male fellow driver was so outraged that he reportedly told her, “If you don’t feel shame, I feel shame for you.”

Only 10 people in the class got their license. Bahai was among them.

Bahai struggles on a day-to-day basis, too. Afghan men sometimes refuse to sit in her cab. Many say she is defying Islam. She receives frequent death threats.

“I receive threats from unknown callers who tell me to not drive in the city because I am a woman, because it is against Islam. Some tell me that if I continue to work as a taxi driver they will kill me,” she said.

At her shanty in a poor neighbourhood, she keeps a loaded hunting rifle at all times.

Bahai, who doubles as a mechanic, is now trying to give driving lessons to other women in her city of Mazar-i-Sharif, capital of northern Balkh province.

Here is a look at the brave woman and her taxi number 12925, a yellow and white Toyota Corolla.

AP Photo/Mustafa Najafizada
Bahai waits for customers in Mazar-i Sharif city, capital of northern Balkh province, Afghanistan.
AP Photo/Mustafa Najafizada
Taxi driver Sara Bahai drives a customer, in Mazar-i Sharif city, capital of northern Balkh province, Afghanistan.
AP Photo/Mustafa Najafizada
Sara Bahai, right, takes a customer’s money..
AP Photo/Mustafa Najafizada
Sara Bahai, 40, right, pours some water into her taxi’s radiator.
AP Photo/Mustafa Najafizada
Sara Bahai, 40, right, watches a mechanic fixing her taxi.
AP Photo/Mustafa Najafizada
Sara Bahai waits for customers.