On Sunday, August 15, when the nurse came to work, the medicine truck was parked in front of the hospital, and when he approached the building, he saw the driver standing next to the car, waving his hand frantically towards him and the other nurses in the back.
“She was shouting, ‘All women must leave, sister, please go, the Taliban are here!'” The 35-year-old nurse recalled. “At first we didn’t understand him; It seemed impossible. “
Dressed in jeans and a blouse, Western-style clothes she feared she would no longer be able to wear in Kabul, she and the other women around her got into the back of the truck, dropping each of them home. For three days, the nurse was too scared to leave her home. On the fourth morning, he received a call from the president of the hospital: “The Taliban have no problem with women,” he reminded her. “Please come back to work. There is work that only you can do; we are bound for resources, we need you.”
Nurse BuzzFeed spoke to News to share with readers a “real picture” of being a working woman in Afghanistan at the moment, she requested anonymity because she feared for her life.
For working women in Afghanistan, the days following the fall of Kabul brought fear and cold uncertainty about what their lives would be like under Taliban rule. For months, the Taliban have publicly claimed that they have moderated their positions on women’s rights. On Wednesday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters in Kabul that there was only a “temporary ban” on working women and that it was for their own safety amid the chaos of regime change.
“Our security forces are not trained [in] How to treat women, ”said Mujahid. “Unless we’re completely safe … we tell women to stay home.”
But the first days of the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan have only confirmed what Afghan women have been saying: their homeland will once again become a place where women face more dangers, restrictions and few opportunities. Women who once spoke openly about their rights were forced to flee the country, their homes and offices were vandalized by armed gunmen, and posters with pictures of women were distorted throughout the capital. Young girls have been sent home from school and warned not to return. Hospitals where nurses work are becoming gender-segregated – female doctors and nurses can only talk to and treat other women, and all women outside their homes must wear the hijab. Even in areas where the Taliban have not yet begun policing women, their return to power has encouraged vigilantes who have threatened women not to wear the hijab or stay out of their homes.
“We’re waiting now,” said the nurse, who has worked at the hospital for 10 years. “But we don’t know what we’re waiting for.”
For a woman like a nurse, the only earning member of her family, going to work was never a choice but a necessity. She said she now dreams of leaving Afghanistan, but fears it is impossible because of her unique circumstances: the nurse lives with her mother and a disabled sister who needs constant care. Even before dozens of people were killed in a bombing at Kabul airport on Thursday, the nurse said she could not imagine how she could bring an elderly woman and child into a crowd of desperate people for limited seats on a flight outside the country.
“If anything happens to my sister, or if I leave them behind, I can’t stay with myself,” she said.
Although the nurse did not trust the Taliban or the president of her hospital, she returned to the hospital on Thursday out of a sense of duty. On the street, he said, there were soldiers everywhere, they were carrying Kalashnikovs and watching him pass by after his hijab.
“The fear was intense,” he said. “They looked at me as if I were a victim. But I kept telling myself, maybe they’re not like before, they don’t beat women anymore. They seemed calm, not violent. Not for now. “
At the hospital, the security guards who normally operated each entrance were missing and the whole place looked upside down. He found that most of the patients’ wards were empty – many simply tore up their IV shots and left the hospital on their feet. Those who remained – a number of sick patients, a pregnant woman – were frightened, he said.
The Covid Ward, which the nurse said had had at least a dozen patients until a week ago, is now empty. The nurse learned from another nurse that relatives of some patients had decided that the Taliban posed a more dangerous threat than the coronavirus and had taken their sick family members home or directly to the airport.
“We have no further information on the number of covid patients in this hospital, or in this regard, in this city,” he told BuzzFeed News. “The health ministry is still updating the Covid data, but none of it is real. No one wants to leave their homes and go to the Taliban.
A few stamped victims were also brought to his hospital for treatment, but they were men whom he could not treat under the hospital’s new rules. The nurse said she learned about the new rules from a colleague who told her she had been sent home by Taliban soldiers when she was seen talking to a man with bloody legs.
For the Taliban, nurses and doctors have to go to the hospital every day to log their presence in the city. With new policies and empty wards, she said, nurses are having a hard time inspiring themselves to show up to work.
Many patients, in order to avoid the risk of leaving their home, tend to contact medical professionals in person. The nurse was recently showing a pregnant woman when she was pregnant, begging for help. The nurse took as much material as she could and walked with the woman to her home, where she secretly gave birth. The nurse eventually left the woman with a list of medications she needed, but she said she no longer heard from him.
The nurse is afraid to visit too many homes due to Taliban soldiers at checkpoints, who are monitoring the movement around the city, but she is not sure how she will make money. The hospital’s president recently told nurses their salaries were suspended until the city’s banks resumed operations normally – before former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled and the Kabul banks closed on August 15, just before the Taliban arrived in the capital. When the banks reopened about a week later, it was almost impossible for them to enter due to the huge crowds. The nurse said she could not access the ATM and was not sure what to do when she ran out of cash. If the Taliban forced women like her to stop working, the nurse said, there would be no way to feed her family.
The nurse around her said the soldiers did not have the same problems on the streets as ordinary men who suddenly hired their own moral guardians, telling women to go home, wear hijabs and show shame, warning them of beatings. If they do not agree.
A few days ago, he had an argument with a shopkeeper who punished him for wearing jeans regularly: “It’s good that the Taliban have come here to take care of women like you,” he reminded her. Since then, the nurse’s mother and a young man have gone out to buy bread and necessities for the neighboring family.
The nurse now spends most of her time indoors, but her primary sources of entertainment at home are no longer like running away – television broadcasts nothing but news. “I’m just looking at turbans, beards and guns,” the nurse said. “We didn’t love any Bollywood movies, Afghan superstars, or chat shows.” He said the radio no longer plays music, only Taliban religious songs, which have no melody and no sound like a funeral. 3
Khatol Momand contributed to the report.