In a nondescript town in Kabul, Dr. Sona (last name withheld) battles depression. She is one of millions of Afghan women who can no longer work in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. In December last year, Dr. Sona got a job at a clinic in Kabul.
“You can’t join because of the new rules,” Dr. Sona was recently told when she called the clinic for final confirmation of her employment status. This was just before the new ruling by the Taliban government that ordered hospitals to ensure that male doctors could no longer treat female patients.
“I desperately needed that job,” Dr. Sona told WION in a phone conversation.
Asked by WION what she expected the rest of the world to do about the fate of women’s rights in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Dr. Sona’s voice grew heavy as she fought back tears. The sea of emotions made its way into the conversation. “I want to tell the world please support us. We want to get out of this misery,” said Dr. Sona.
Taliban rulings targeting the education and labor rights of women and girls have sparked widespread international outcry, but have had no impact on the reversal of the extremist rulings. The UN Security Council expressed last week that it is “deeply alarmed” by the erosion of women’s rights in the country. He urged the Taliban to “reopen schools and quickly reverse these policies and practices, which represent a further erosion of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The Group of Seven (G-7) countries have also called on the Taliban to “urgently revoke” the ban on female aid workers.
But in Kabul’s reorganized corridors of power, women have been pushed to the sidelines, almost as a means of asserting the administrative authority of Afghanistan’s new hardline rulers.
“God willing, I pray that things go back to the way they were before them (the Taliban). But I don’t know if I should wait that long or not,” said Dr. Sona.
‘I dream of going to college every night’
For 21-year-old Bahisht, becoming a doctor was a dream he lived every day when he went to Kabul University to study medicine. “Since the university closed, every night I dream of going to university,” Bahisht told WION by phone from Kabul.
Born in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement, Bahisht moved to Kabul with her family 12 years ago. “I had so many dreams that I wanted to take the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam). My family did not have the financial means to make me study abroad. But I knew that if I worked hard, I could live.” my dreams,” Bahisht said.
Last month, Taliban operatives literally slammed the university door in Bahisht’s face.
Bahisht said that he made sure to enter the university premises early in the morning. “I was the first through the doors. I started studying as much as I could for the exam that was scheduled,” she said.
A couple of hours later, amid much commotion from Bahisht’s fellow college students who were also trying to get into the university, she was the only student inside.
“They (Taliban agents) were shocked when they realized that he was inside. They didn’t know that he had come from the beginning,” Bahisht said.
“Get out. As of today, the university is closed to you forever,” Taliban agents told Bahisht as they pushed her out of the university gates.
“The Taliban surrounded our university to make sure no girls could enter. It was like we were the terrorists and they were there to stop us. The Taliban were everywhere in the police jeeps,” Bahisht said.
In the footage seen by WION, men in a police jeep surround the bus from the university where Bahisht studied. The men could be seen holding barricades and weapons, exactly as Bahisht explained.
“They took everything from us. Our freedom, our happiness. It was just the education that we were left with. That was also taken away from us,” Bahisht said.
In a critically acclaimed biographical account of the late Afghan politician and military commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, Scottish journalist Sandy Gall, in a chapter titled ‘Marriage and War,’ quotes a close associate of Massoud’s as saying: “When you respect the dignity of people, they join your side”.
Afghanistan’s medical professionals and students hope that the erosion of their dignity under the Taliban will result in the downfall of the country’s current rulers.
“If the women are sick now, they can no longer visit the male doctors. So women will die for lack of medical supervision,” Bahisht said.
“Women can no longer be the sick; patients in Afghanistan. And much less the doctors.