Afghan women are still facing a scary future

The medicine truck was parked in front of the hospital when the nurse arrived for work on Sunday, August 15, and as she approached the building, she saw the driver standing next to the car, frantically waving to her and the doctors. Another nurse returned. come back.

“He shouted, ‘all the women have to leave, sister, go away, the Taliban is here! “,” the 35-year-old nurse recalls. “At first, we couldn’t understand him; that seems impossible. ”

Dressed in jeans and a blouse, the Western-style outfit she feared would no longer work in Kabul, she and the other women around her climbed into the back of the truck, leaving them to drop them off at home. For three days, the nurse was so scared that she ran away from home. On Wednesday morning, she received a call from the hospital president: “Taliban has no problem with women,” she recalls him saying. “Get back to work. There are quests here that only you can do; We are short of resources, we need you. “

She told BuzzFeed News to share with readers a “realistic picture” of what it would be like to be a woman working in Afghanistan right now.

For working women staying in Afghanistan, the days since the fall of Kabul have brought fear and chills as to what their life will be like under Taliban rule. For months, the Taliban have publicly stated that they have censored their stance on aspects of women’s rights. On Wednesday, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told reporters in Kabul that there were only “temporary restrictions” on working women and that it was for their own safety amid the chaos of the outbreak. mode change.

“Our security forces are not trained [in] how to deal with women,” said Mujahid. “Until we have full security in place…we ask women to stay home.”
But the early days of Taliban domination in Afghanistan only confirmed what Afghan women have always said: that their homeland will once again be transformed into a place where women face greater dangers, limitations and less. more chance. The women who were frank publicity about their rights were forced to flee the country, their homes and offices were ransacked by armed gunmen, and posters featuring women were scattered throughout the capital. The young girls were sent home from school and warned not to return. Hospitals like those where nurses work are becoming sexist – female doctors and nurses can only talk to and treat other women, and all women are outside the home They all have to wear a headscarf. Even in areas where the Taliban have yet to begin to control women, their return to power has encouraged vigilantes who have threatened women for not wearing a headscarf or staying in their homes.

“We are just waiting now,” said the nurse, who has worked at the hospital for 10 years. “But even we didn’t know what we were waiting for.”

For women like nurses, the sole earning member of the family, going to work is never an option but a necessity. Now, she dreams of leaving Afghanistan, she said, but fears that is impossible because of her unique circumstances: A nurse who lives with her mother and a sister with a disability, who need care. regular squirrel. Even before a bomb killed dozens at Kabul airport on Thursday, the nurse said she couldn’t imagine how she could carry an elderly woman and child through a crowd of desperately jostling for limited seats on flights out of the land. country.

“If something happened to my sister, or if I had to leave them behind, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself,” she said.

Although the nurse did not trust the Taliban or her hospital president, she returned to the hospital on Thursday in a spirit of duty, she said. On the street, she said, there were soldiers everywhere, carrying Kalashnikovs and watching as she passed in a headscarf.

“The fear was very intense,” she said. “They glared at me like I was prey. But I kept thinking to myself, maybe they’re not like before, don’t hit women anymore. They seem quiet, non-violent. At least not yet.”

At the hospital, the security guards who were stationed at each entrance were missing and the whole place seemed to be turned upside down. She walked in to find that most of the patient wards were empty – many simply tore off their IV tubes and left the hospital on foot. The rest – a few terminally ill patients, a pregnant woman – looked terrified, she said.

The COVID ward, which the nurse said was overcrowded with at least a dozen patients until last week, is now full. Another nurse learned that relatives of some patients had decided that the Taliban were a bigger threat than the coronavirus and had taken their sick family members home or straight to the airport.

“We no longer have any data on the number of COVID patients in this hospital or for that matter in this city,” she told BuzzFeed News. “The Ministry of Health is still updating the COVID data, but none of it is real. No one who is sick wants to leave their home and clash with the Taliban.”

A few trample victims were also taken to her hospital for treatment, but they were men, whom she could not treat according to the hospital’s new rules. The nurse said she learned about the new rule from a colleague who told her she was sent home by Taliban soldiers when she was seen talking to a man whose leg was bleeding.

Nurses and doctors were required to visit the hospital daily to document their presence in the city for the Taliban. Between the new policies and empty wards, nurses are finding it difficult to stay motivated to keep working, she said.

Many patients, seeking to avoid the risk of leaving their homes, have turned to private contacts with medical professionals. A nurse recently delivered a baby when a pregnant woman showed up in her neighborhood, begging for help. The nurse took whatever supplies she could find and accompanied the woman to her home, where she gave birth in secret. The nurse left the woman with a list of medications she would eventually need, but she said she had not heard from her again.

The nurse was afraid to visit her home too much because the Taliban soldiers at the checkpoints were monitoring the movement around the city, but she didn’t know how else to make money. The hospital’s president recently told the nurses that their salaries would be withheld until the city’s banks start operating normally again – banks in Kabul close on May 15. 8, just before the former president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, fled and the Taliban arrived in the capital. When the banks reopened after nearly a week, they were almost unable to get in due to the high volume of customers. The nurse said she couldn’t access the ATM and didn’t know what to do if she ran out of cash. The nurse said that if the Taliban forced women like her to stop working, she would have no way to feed her family.

In her neighborhood, the nurse said that soldiers were not as much of a concern as ordinary men on the street who suddenly designated them as moral guardians, asking women to returned home, wearing a headscarf and embarrassed, warning them to be beaten. if they do not comply.

A few days ago, she got into an argument with a shop owner who chastised her for constantly wearing jeans: “It’s good that the Taliban are here to take care of women like you,” she recounted. Since then, the nurse’s mother and a young man next door took turns buying bread and other necessities for the family.

The nurse spends most of her time indoors, but her main sources of entertainment at home are no longer escapist – television broadcasts nothing but the news. “All I see are turbines and beards and guns,” the nurse said. “No Bollywood movies, Afghan Superstars or talk shows that we used to love.” The station no longer plays music, she said, but only plays Taliban religious songs, which “have no melody and sound like a funeral.” ●

Khatol Momand contributed reporting.

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