In a village deep within the mountains of central Afghanistan that has been dominated by the Taliban for 1 / 4 of a century, ladies brazenly work alongside males at a significant well being clinic.
Tangi Saidan in Wardak province has lived within the shadow of the entrance line however by no means been underneath the total management of presidency forces since a US-led invasion ousted the brutal and repressive Taliban regime in 2001.
Reached by slender grime roads, the Tangi Saidan clinic is alone in providing surgical procedure within the distant space, with native Taliban leaders permitting some flexibility within the motion’s rules on the segregation of the sexes.
“We have to operate here. If we don’t, women will die,” stated Sharif Shah, a person and the one surgeon, who carries out procedures on ladies.
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It takes hours to reach the clinic from some surrounding villages, and within the winter, when snow blocks the roads, sufferers are sometimes carried on foot.
Reaching higher well being services within the capital Kabul, a day journey away on rocky, winding roads, is out of the query for individuals on this impoverished mountain space.
There are seven ladies among the many clinic’s 28 workers members: one nurse, a vaccine specialist, two midwives, a nutritionist and two cleaners, usually working facet by facet with males.
“When it is necessary, Islamic law permits it,” Mohammad, the Taliban official answerable for well being care in Daymirdad district, instructed AFP.
The Taliban, who seized energy in August as US-led forces withdrew from Afghanistan, have but to problem clear tips on how they may govern in step with Sharia legislation.
They initially ordered ladies to chorus from returning to work till Islamic techniques had been in place.
The group later referred to as ladies well being employees again to clinics and hospitals, however many had been too afraid to renew their duties.
Others in Kabul, essentially the most progressive Afghan metropolis, stated rules on segregation made their work too troublesome.
But Jamila, the only feminine nurse on the Tangi Saidan clinic, stated she had by no means needed to fear about working in Daymirdad, though she is chaperoned by a male “mahram”, or guardian, when she does the night time shift.
“People don’t have a problem with men doctors, because a doctor is like a mahram,” she stated.
Clear rules govern this coexistence — certainly one of few exceptions granted by the Taliban.
When there are not any male nurses, a feminine nurse can look after male sufferers.
And when there are not any feminine docs, a male doctor can deal with ladies.
“Men and women can work together in the same room, although under normal circumstances there should be a curtain between them,” the Taliban official defined.
Yet on the Tangi Saidan clinic, there is no such thing as a curtain, and nurse Jamila chats brazenly along with her male colleagues.
In deeply conservative Afghanistan, even in areas underneath the management of the earlier US-backed governments, men and women had been anticipated to be handled by a well being skilled of the identical intercourse.
Jamila is extra involved with whether or not she’s going to proceed to be paid.
The nation’s well being service is on the point of collapse, with Western nations largely halting the help that propped up Afghanistan’s clinics and hospitals.
Many workers at authorities well being centres have gone months with out salaries, whereas medicines are dwindling and expert workers comparable to docs have fled the nation.
The Taliban victory has introduced financial hardship but additionally an finish to air strikes and night time raids by airdropped authorities forces within the village, positioned near a entrance line.
The clinic run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan was repeatedly focused by troops searching for Taliban militants, who had been handled alongside civilians throughout the battle.
Behind its inexperienced partitions, nonetheless pockmarked from computerized fireplace, Mandanda, a affected person in her 60s who has come from a neighbouring village for chest pains, is relieved.
“We are no longer losing our children. It is as though the sun has finally risen,” she stated.
But in a neighbouring mattress, Jamila, a 40-year-old mom of seven, is much less upbeat.
“They have brought us peace, but we have nothing to eat,” she instructed AFP.
Mastura, a 27-year-old midwife, recollects with horror an assault on the clinic two years in the past — helicopters roaring above, screams, and a gun pointed at her when Afghan authorities forces charged in.
Two workers members died within the raid.
During her seven years on the clinic, the fear of raids was a part of on a regular basis life, however Mastura stated she had averted run-ins with the Taliban.
“They are not in the street saying ‘do this or don’t do that’. They live here with their families as part of society,” she stated.
But Mastura is underneath few illusions concerning the future underneath the Islamists.
“My mom and my grandmother had very troublesome lives. I’m solely 27 and my life has already been very troublesome.
“I don’t think that it will be any better for my daughter.”