Mariam al-Mansouri

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Mariam al-Mansouri
Born1979 (age 39–40)
Abu Dhabi
Alma materUnited Arab Emirates University Khalifa bin Zayed Air College
OccupationUAEAF Fighter Pilot
Known forFirst Emirati female fighter pilot

Mariam al-Mansouri (Arabic: مريم المنصوري‎), (born 1979 in Abu Dhabi), is the first female fighter pilot of the United Arab Emirates. She was one of the first women to join the United Arab Emirates Air Force (UAEAF) academy after women were allowed to join, graduating in 2007.[1] She flies an F-16 Fighting Falcon and led UAE mission airstrikes against ISIS over Syria.[2]


The Emirates were among the five Arab allies that joined the United States in the airstrikes in Syria in 2014 to beat back ISIS forces, and were first to participate.[2] In an interview with MSNBC,[3] Yousef Al Otaiba, Emirati ambassador to the United States, recounted that when U.S. Air Force tanker pilots radioed in to speak with the UAE mission during air refueling and heard al-Mansouri's voice, they were initially surprised and silent for a short time.[2]

Family, education, and work[edit]

Al-Mansouri is one of 8 children.[1] Her family is related to Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori, an engineer and politician in the UAE.[4] In an interview with Deraa Al Watan magazine, she said that her family supported her career goals, but she had to overcome gender stereotypes along the way. It helped that she had finished high school with excellent marks.[5] She earned an undergraduate degree in English literature from United Arab Emirates University.[1]

Al-Mansouri served in the army before starting in flight training. She attended the Khalifa bin-Zayed Air College of the United Arab Emirates Air Force for pilots, graduating in 2007.[6] She received the Mohammed bin Rashid Pride of the Emirates medal[1] for excellence in her field.[2]

Before the Syrian airstrikes, al-Mansouri was profiled in The National, an Abu Dhabi newspaper, in June 2014. In July 2014, CNN interviewed her about her career in the UAE Air Force.[7] She said she aspired to become a pilot since high school, but had to wait until women were permitted.[1] In the meantime, she earned her degree and worked for the army general staff in other capacities.[1]

2014 airstrikes and media role[edit]

Al Otaiba called her a "fully qualified, highly trained, combat-ready pilot and wing leader".[2] He regards al-Mansouri as a role model for women in Islamic and Arab states.[2] Al Otaiba said, "I think it's important for us moderate Arabs, moderate Muslims, to step up and say: 'this is a threat against us'".[6]

Spiegel Online and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung referred to al-Mansouri's reception in social media where she had been dubbed "Lady Liberty" and "nightmare of the ISIS fighters".[8] Spiegel used the title "Operation Wüstenmaid" (Operation Desert Maiden). The German news source started a sort of PR campaign. The Arab states of the Persian Gulf used her example and the involvement of Saudi prince Chalid bin-Salman, pilot of an IDS Panavia Tornado, against extremism.[9] According to Palestinian sources, al-Mansouri had been disowned by her family; a claim not confirmed independently.[4]

Some statements in a broadcast of Fox News Channel's The Five about al-Mansouri were deemed sexist by international media.[9][10] The next day, Eric Bolling, co-host of the early evening talk show, apologized for his remarks.[11]

Times of Israel remained skeptical about the "femme fatale".[12] Al-Mansouri's involvement in the aerial missions may have brought the UAE positive media attention. The Times referred to the actual mixed record on women's rights and the UAE ranking tenth in a list of 22 Arab nations with regard to equality for women.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Emirati Woman Who Reached For The Skies The National Staff, The National, 10 June 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f ISIS Fight: Mariam Al Mansouri Is First Woman Fighter Pilot for U.A.E. Erin McClam September 25, 2014 Charlene Gubash and Ayman Mohyeldin NBC News 2014
  3. ^ Mariam al-Mansouri, la femme pilote des Emirats qui dirige les frappes en Syrie, Clément Daniez, 26/09/2014, [[L'Express (France) |L'express]]
  4. ^ a b Arab woman pilot who is poster girl for Gulf states' blitz on ISIS is 'disowned by her family' for bombing 'Sunni heroes of Iraq and the Levant' Mariam Al Mansouri's F-16 bombing raids were celebrated in the West, but a statement purporting to be from her UAE family has 'disowned' her, that it attacks her for 'taking part in the brutal aggression against Syria'], Ted Thornhill and Chris Spargo for MailOnline, 27/9/2014
  5. ^ Meet the Female Pilot Who Led Airstrike on ISIS Sep 25, 2014, SUSANNA KIM Good Morning America, abc news
  6. ^ a b UAE’s female fighter pilot leads airstrikes against ISIL UAE The National, September 25, 2014
  7. ^ CNN Interview with Masouri July 2014, on Telegraph website
  8. ^ Kampf gegen IS-Miliz „Lady Liberty“ fliegt Luftangriffe auf Dschihadisten, Christoph Sydow FAZ 26/9/2014
  9. ^ a b Kampf gegen IS als PR-Offensive: Golfstaaten starten Operation Wüstenmaid, Spiegel Von Christoph Sydow 26.09.2014
  10. ^ Fox News presenters mock female pilot who took part in campaign against Isis, Hosts crack sexist jokes about UAE’s Major Mariam al-Mansouri, calling her 'boobs on the ground' Martin Williams, The Guardian, 25 September 2014
  11. ^ "'Boobs on the ground': Fox News presenter Eric Bolling responds to UAE's first female pilot in Isis air strikes". The Independent. 2014-09-26.
  12. ^ a b Femme Fatale Female Arab pilot sticks it to Jihadists Mariam al-Mansouri, the UAE’s first female pilot, is leading strike missions against Islamic State targets, Itamar Sharon September 26, 2014, timesofisrael

External links[edit]