The medication truck was parked in entrance of the hospital when the nurse arrived for work on that Sunday, Aug. 15, and as she approached the constructing, she noticed the motive force standing beside the automobile, frantically waving at her and the opposite nurses to show again.
“He was screaming, ‘all the ladies should go away, sister please go, the Taliban are right here!’” the 35-year-old nurse recalled. “At first we couldn’t perceive him; it appeared not possible.”
Wearing denims and a shirt, Western-style garments she feared she may not put on in Kabul, she and the opposite ladies round her climbed into the again of the truck, which dropped them every off at house. For 3 days, the nurse was too scared to depart her home. On the fourth morning, she acquired a name from the hospital’s president: “The Taliban don’t have any downside with ladies,” she recalled him saying. “Please come again to work. There are duties right here that solely you are able to do; we’re strapped for assets, we’d like you.”
The nurse spoke with BuzzFeed Information to share with readers a “actual image” of what it’s wish to be a working lady in Afghanistan proper now, she mentioned, requesting anonymity as a result of she fears for her life.
For working ladies who stay in Afghanistan, the times because the fall of Kabul have introduced worry and a chilling uncertainty about what their lives will appear to be underneath Taliban rule. For months, the Taliban have publicly claimed that they’ve moderated their positions on elements of ladies’s rights. On Wednesday, Taliban’s spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid informed reporters in Kabul that there was solely a “non permanent restriction” on working ladies and that it was for their very own security amid the chaos of the regime change.
“Our safety forces are usually not skilled [in] cope with ladies,” Mujahid mentioned. “Till we’ve got full safety in place … we ask ladies to remain house.”
However the early days of the Taliban’s reign in Afghanistan have solely confirmed what Afghan ladies have been saying all alongside: that their house nation will as soon as once more flip into a spot the place ladies face better risks, restrictions, and few alternatives. Ladies who had been as soon as publicly outspoken about their rights have been pressured to flee the nation, their properties and workplaces ransacked by armed gunmen, and posters with pictures of ladies have been defaced throughout the capital. Younger women have been despatched house from college and warned to not return. Hospitals like those the nurse works in have gotten gender segregated — ladies medical doctors and nurses can solely communicate to and deal with different ladies, and all ladies outdoors their properties should put on hijab. Even in areas the place the Taliban is but to begin policing ladies, their return to energy has emboldened vigilantes who’ve threatened ladies for not carrying a hijab or not staying of their properties.
“We’re simply ready now,” mentioned the nurse, who has labored on the hospital for 10 years. “However even we don’t know what we’re ready for.”
For ladies just like the nurse, the one incomes member in her household, going to work was by no means a selection however a necessity. She now goals of leaving Afghanistan, she mentioned, however fears that that’s an impossibility due to her distinctive circumstances: The nurse lives along with her mom and a sister with disabilities who requires fixed care. Even earlier than a bomb killed dozens of individuals on the Kabul airport on Thursday, the nurse mentioned that she couldn’t think about how she may presumably usher an aged lady and baby by means of the determined crowds jostling for the restricted seats on flights in a foreign country.
“If one thing had been to occur to my sister, or if I needed to go away them behind, I’d not be capable of stay with myself,” she mentioned.
Regardless that the nurse didn’t belief the Taliban or her hospital’s president, she returned to the hospital on Thursday out of a way of obligation, she mentioned. On the streets, she mentioned, there have been troopers in all places, carrying Kalashnikovs and watching as she walked previous in her hijab.
“The worry was intense,” she mentioned. “They glared at me as if I had been prey. However I saved telling myself, possibly they aren’t like earlier than, they don’t beat ladies anymore. They appeared quiet, not violent. A minimum of not but.”
On the hospital, the safety individuals who normally manned every entrance had been lacking and all the place appeared the other way up. She walked in to search out that the majority affected person wards had been empty — many had merely ripped their IVs out and left the hospital on foot. Those that remained — just a few terminally ailing sufferers, one pregnant lady — regarded terrified, she mentioned.
The COVID ward, which the nurse mentioned was overrun with at the least a dozen sufferers till the week earlier than, was now empty. The nurse realized from one other nurse that the family of some sufferers had determined the Taliban was a extra harmful risk than the coronavirus and had taken their sick relations house or straight to the airport.
“We not have any knowledge on the variety of COVID sufferers on this hospital, or for that matter, on this metropolis,” she informed BuzzFeed Information. “The well being ministry continues to be updating COVID knowledge, however none of that’s actual. Nobody who’s sick desires to depart their home and run into Taliban troopers.”
A couple of stampede victims had been dropped at her hospital for therapy too, however they had been males, whom she couldn’t deal with underneath the brand new hospital guidelines. The nurse mentioned she realized about this new rule from a colleague, who informed her she had been despatched house by Taliban troopers when she was seen chatting with a person with a bleeding foot.
Nurses and medical doctors are required to go to the hospital daily to log their presence within the metropolis for the Taliban. Between the brand new insurance policies and the empty wards, the nurse is having a tough time motivating herself to maintain exhibiting as much as work, she mentioned.
Many sufferers, searching for to keep away from the danger of leaving their properties, have turned to privately contacting medical professionals. The nurse not too long ago delivered a child when a pregnant lady confirmed up in her neighborhood, begging for assist. The nurse carried no matter provides she may discover and walked with the lady to her house, the place she delivered the newborn in secret. The nurse left the lady with a listing of medicines she would ultimately want, however she mentioned she has not heard from her once more.
The nurse is afraid of creating too many house visits due to the Taliban troopers at checkpoints who’re monitoring motion across the metropolis, however she isn’t certain how else to earn cash. The hospital’s president not too long ago informed nurses their salaries are on maintain till town’s banks begin functioning usually once more — banks in Kabul closed on Aug. 15, simply earlier than Afghanistan’s former president, Ashraf Ghani, fled and the Taliban arrived within the capital. When banks reopened after practically every week, they had been practically not possible to enter on account of large crowds. The nurse mentioned she hasn’t been in a position to entry an ATM and isn’t certain what to do if she runs out of money. If the Taliban forces ladies like her to cease working, the nurse mentioned, she can have no technique to feed her household.
In her neighborhood, the nurse mentioned that troopers weren’t as a lot of an issue as odd males on the road who had instantly appointed themselves ethical guardians, telling ladies to return house, put on a hijab, and present some disgrace, warning them of beatings if they don’t comply.
A couple of days in the past, she had an argument with a shopkeeper who chastised her for recurrently carrying denims: “It’s an excellent factor the Taliban are right here to handle ladies such as you,” she recalled him saying. Since then, the nurse’s mom and a younger male neighbor have taken turns going out to purchase bread and necessities for the household.
The nurse spends most of her time indoors now, however her major sources of leisure at house not provide any semblance of escapism — the tv airs nothing however the information. “All I see are turbans, beards, and weapons,” the nurse mentioned. “No Bollywood movies, Afghan Celebrity, or the chat reveals we used to like.” The radio, she mentioned, not performs music however solely the Taliban’s spiritual songs, which “don’t have any melody and sound like a funeral.” ●
Khatol Momand contributed reporting.