Taliban conflicted over women medical work in Afghanistan

“Male medical practitioners must not be performing physical procedures on women’s reproductive organs, in fact should not even deliver a baby, by the old Islam school rules, but since December the Taliban banned females from being anything but domestic animals. That creates a problem for everyone including the families of the Taliban elite and its supporters,” explains Gracie Edwards who is a director of RINJ Women in Afghanistan.

Interview with underground women’s clinics workers in Afghanistan by Melissa Hemingway

“We actually don’t have much of a struggle with Taliban, our problems mostly come from al Quaeda and Daeash (ISIS),” she explains in a voice call with this writer, Beverley Baldock of the regional security team and two local registered nurses from Europe.

“What we are dealing with is massive criminal organizations whose members exploit starving families, getting them to sell their girls into sex slavery. Every young girl is pretty and they fetch a high price on the international market, even in the United States and Canada. People with money can do anything and get away with it,” explained Ms. Edwards who is Syrian born and previously worked in Deir Ezzor and Idlib.

Baby girls at grave risk in Afghanistan

“Girl babies have a low life expectancy and are generally at grave risk in Afghanistan,” says underground medical worker. Most public medical facilities are under-funded and suffer a dearth of qualified medical workers. The official health department denies this. NGOs are seeing a range of illness among girls suffering deprivation. Malnutrition of women and children is a dire problem. Parasites, worms are prevalent because of badly prepared bad food with bad water and poor sanitation cause vaginal bleeding in small girls, as worms come out of the anus and settle in the vagina, causing infections and ulcers explains Ms. Edwards. “Respiratory tract infections, some of which we cannot even identify are killing children, many of whom didn’t even have a blanket until they reached us, in many cases too late,” she added. Photo is source-supplied. Art/Cropping/Enhancement: Rosa Yamamoto / Feminine-Perspective-Magazine

“Last fall the UN Human Rights Commission issued a statement scolding the Taliban and saying that they should abide global human rights standards for women. We laughed. There are many places we do not want the Taliban to copy. At least they let us live and don’t kill women and girls like they do in Iran and Myanmar,” said Grace.

“In recent months, violations of women and girls’ fundamental rights and freedoms in Afghanistan, already the most severe and unacceptable in the world, have sharply increased. While girls remain excluded from secondary education, women have been further stopped from entering public places such as parks and gyms, and in at least one region young women were recently blocked from entering their university. Banning women’s access to parks also denies children the opportunity for leisure and exercise and their right to engage in play and recreational activities. Confining women to their homes is tantamount to imprisonment and is likely leading to increased levels of domestic violence and mental health challenges,” wrote UN unnamed experts.

Contraception, prenatal and postnatal care are things we do not talk about but our medical protocols and medical directives were fine tuned in Iraq and Syria during the Daesh Caliphate, if you get my meaning. We do not talk about things that must be provided but are considered illegal. We don’t even talk about the Caliphate for security reasons but also because that is just a PTSD score,” she said in a worried voice.

“The Taliban leave us alone and I don’t know why.

“We do perform a service they struggle with. Birthing clinics and midwives are in the Quran and we do a lot of this work but we tend to engage only skilled and certified medical workers which is a conflict here because there is no Taliban-approved program for training female medical workers. They believe women by the Grace of Allah know what to do. I kind of agree with that in theory but not professionally. I would rather not say what our work-around would be. We are happy to accept the title of midwives and conduct ourselves as community volunteers who follow women’s intuition for delivering babies and doing pre-and-post-medical care. We take care of women from Taliban families, and they are very respectful, although secretive, and pay us with food and sometimes even verboten supplies. They also overlook our other work for women. For example, our surgeon here had to remove a poverty-stricken women’s ovaries due to cancer. That was a year ago. She is now OK despite our horrid struggle to get chemo-meds, which, believe it or not, we typically smuggle in from Iran where we have a growing humanitarian operation thanks to faith-based helpers. That woman has five children for heaven’s sake. Some would die without their mommy! We so far have beat the cancer, kept her alive, but, alas, no more babies. The father did not know about our work at the patient’s request for eight months or in those times he would have killed her and us too. Now that his wife is taking care of the kids again, he is relieved. We also smuggle bread and olives to his wife and kids, which helps—makes him appreciate her life. I can’t believe that needed saying.

“We are mostly Muslims here. I am, and those of my team who are not Muslim don’t show it. That’s the best I can say on that. But we expect from the Taliban severe 7th-century mindset marginalization of women although it is done in the context of the Quran which in an Islamic way of thinking is an exaltation of women—among Neanderthals.

“Thses p***ks from the Daesh and al Quaeda will just rape you, sell you or kill you. That’s why Beverley and her crew are here from our security contractor. But we need a lot more help because we are now like Syria [inasmuch as] we have hordes of orphans who have been rescued from the slave-trade rings but have no family to go back to. I am worried,” continued Grace.

An interview with Ms. Edwards

An interview with Ms. Edwards. Screen capture courtesy The RINJ Foundation.