4. desember 2020 døde Afghanistans første og så langt eneste kvinnelige trestjerners general Dr. Sohaila Sediq 80 år gammel. Nå hylles hun for sitt banebrytende arbeid innen helse og politikk, og for å ha inspirert en generasjon av jenter og kvinner i Afghanistan.

Dr. Sadiq ble ansatt ved Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khans militærsykehus i Kabul på 1970-tallet, og var sjef der i neste to ti-år; under den sovjetiske okkupasjonen, Najibullahs regjeringstid, mujahedinregjeringen, Taliban-regimet og Karzai-regjeringen.

Dr. Sohaila Sediq. Bilde: Wikipedia

I 2001 ble Dr. Sediq tilbudt stillingen som landets helseminister. Hun visste hvordan man skulle drive et sykehus, men ikke et departement, har hun selv sagt. Til tross for sine tvil samt liten politisk erfaring ble hun sittende som helseminister frem til 2004, som én av to kvinnelige ministre i Hamid Karzais interimregjering.

Under hennes ledelse ble blant annet 6 millioner barn vaksinert mot polio. Hun gjenopptok sitt arbeid ved militærsykehuset i Kabul i 2004, men fortsatte som rådgiver for den nye ministeren. Samtidig underviste hun kvinnelige medisinerstudenter, inkludert gynekolog Khadija Safi, som nå arbeider ved Afghanistankomiteens helseavdeling i Kabul. Dr. Sedig arbeidet ved militærsykehuset frem til hun ble svekket av Alzheimer for rundt ti år siden.

Oppveksten

Sohaila Sediq vokste opp som det fjerde av seks barn, alle jenter. Moren var lærer på den tyske Amani High School i Kabul. Faren, Mohammad Sediq Khan, en mektig mann med gode kontakter, hadde vært guvernør i Farah, Herat og Kandahar, og ordfører i Kabul. Foreldrene var svært opptatt av at døtrene deres skulle ta høyere utdanning fremfor å gifte dem bort – noe som var svært unikt på den tiden.

To av Dr. Sediqs søstre jobbet på kjente Kabul-skoler, Malalai High School og Zarguna High School, én var professor ved Kabul medisinske fakultet og en var arkitekt og professor ved velkjente Kabul polytekniske institutt.

Sykehusdirektør og generaltittel 

Sohaila gikk på Malalai High School, studerte medisin ved Kabul universitet, og fikk deretter stipend til å studere ved First Moscow State Medical University i 1975. Da hun returnerte til Afghanistan med en doktorgrad i allmenn kirurgi ble hun umiddelbart ansatt ved militærsykehuset i Kabul. Hun steg fort i gradene, og ble sjef for kirurgisk avdeling i 1978 og sykehusdirektør i 1994. Midt på 90-tallet reddet hun og hennes stab livet til hundrevis av sårede soldater og sivile, og for å hedre innsatsen hennes mottok hun generaltittelen av president Babrak Karmal.         

Som sykehusdirektør foretok Dr. Sediq tusenvis av operasjoner, både av Taliban-, og Mujahedin-soldater. Hun drev sykehuset og avdelingen godt.

– Jeg kan huske en gang da mannen min ble operert på sykehuset i Kabul. Jeg satt i korridoren utenfor operasjonssalen. Det var mange skadde Mujahedin-soldater der. General Sohaila kom og klemte en ung mannlig lege, hun oppmuntret ham og sa «Jeg er stolt. Du utførte en utmerket operasjon.» De skadde mujahedin-soldatene likte ikke at hun klemte den mannlige legen, men de våget ikke noe til henne fordi de var pasienter og hun var en lege. Jeg husker de mumlet til hverandre at alle leger er kommunister, sier Dr. Khadija Safi

Står opp mot Taliban

Dr. Sohaila Sediq fikk sparken sammen med alle kvinnelige sykehusansatte da Taliban inntok Kabul i september 1996. Men bare 7-8 måneder seinere ba de henne om å begynne igjen. Helsetjenesten hadde kollapset, og de trengte desperat hjelp. Dr. Sediq sa ja, men på en betingelse; hun og søsteren, som var professor på Kabul polytekniske institutt, skulle ha lov til å arbeide og gå rundt uten burka. Hun satte også uredd i gang et undervisningsprosjekt med kvinnelige medisinerstudenter ved Kabul universitet med Talibans vitende.

– Jeg fikk starte i general Sohailas klasse, selv om jeg akkurat hadde fått et barn, ikke bodde i Kabul og befant meg i en dårlig økonomisk situasjon. Når jeg kom til hennes kontor, ble jeg tatt imot med åpne armer. Jeg kunne ikke tro det. Når hun tok meg med inn i klasserommet var jeg sikker på at jeg drømte, forteller Dr. Khadija Safi.

Dr. Sediq og Afghanistankomiteen

Afghanistankomiteen fikk anledning til å bistå den modige legen og generalen ved årtusenskiftet, både ved militærsykehuset og medisinerutdanningen. Da var Det doktoren selv som tok kontakt direkte med Afghanistankomiteen.

Det hele startet da Afghanistankomiteen gjorde noe renoveringsarbeid ved Kabul Medical University under Taliban-regimet. Dr. Sohaila Sediq var direktør for militærsykehuset og fakultetsmedlem på det medisinske universitetet. Hun var derfor ofte på besøk på universitetet og observerte Afghanistankomiteens samarbeid med universitetet. Hun kontaktet Afghanistankomiteen for å få mer informasjon om organisasjonen, og neste dag kom hun med en forespørsel til Afghanistankomiteens kontor for å få hjelp med renoveringen av det elektriske systemet på militærsykehuset.

Odd Magnus Bratlie, direktør i Afghanistankomiteen på den tiden, godkjente prosjektet. Det resulterte i at Afghanistankomiteen leverte 400 meter høyspentkabler og oppgraderte det elektriske systemet på sykehuset, og Dr. Sohaila Sediq uttrykte stor takknemlighet for denne sjenerøse støtten.

Hun initierte enda et samarbeid med Afghanistankomiteen, denne gangen med å forsyne de kvinnelige studenter som var med i hennes undervisningsprosjekt med nødvendige pensumbøker. Hennes undervisningsprosjekt var svært eksepsjonelt, da det var forbudt for jenter å studere under Taliban. Afghanistankomiteen reagerte positivt, og kjøpte bøker verdt 1.200.000 pakistanske rupi (ca. 64,000 NOK), som ble overlevert til henne i Kabul.

– Hun var en veldig modig, hardtarbeidende og en ydmyk personlighet. Hun gikk helt til Afghanistankomiteens kontor, og andre organisasjoner, for å be om støtte til klassen sin. Hun fikk full støtte fra Mullah Abbas, daværende folkehelseminister og Mullah Obaidullah, daværende forsvarsminister. Hun var fryktløs i å stå opp mot fundamentalister i regjeringen som var imot jenter og kvinners utdanning. En av elevene fra klassen hennes, jobber nå for Afghanistankomiteen og hun heter Dr. Khadija Saf, forteller Matiullah Kakar, som selv har jobbet for Afghanistankomiteen i neste førti år.

Flyktet aldri fra Afghanistan

Dr. Sediq jobbet i 36 år ved samme sykehus, og flyktet aldri ut av landet. Som kirurg reddet hun liv uansett hvem som satt med makten og til tross for at bombene falt over byen. Hennes innsats hylles av medier verden over, inkludert New York Times. Men enda viktigere hylles hun av sine egne landsmenn for hennes innsats og engasjement for Afghanistan.

– Jeg husker hun fortalte meg at familien hennes ønsket at hun skulle flytte fra landet, men hun nektet, og sa: «Jeg elsker landet mitt og folket mitt. Jeg vil jobbe under enhver dårlig situasjon og under alle dårlige system.», forteller Dr. Khadija Safi.

 


Minneord fra Dr. Khadija Safi:

My memories from Dr. Sohaila Sadiq through different stages of my life. 

Life is like a river full of small and large waves, it faces too many barriers but never stops and goes ahead. In this journey its name is life, we meet many persons, they have been coming and going, but only their memories remained, may it be good memories bad memories.  I have very good memories Sohaila. 

A memory  

she was a beautiful Rose in dry desert   

she was a light in dark night   

she was a smile on depress face   

she was a nice melody in silent  

she was a white angel on the earth 

she was hope for hopeless women  

she was a military but without a gun 

she was in the military but saved the life 

she was a teacher and manager  

she was a General and doctor 

she is a good memory in my mind  

she is a role model in my life  

Afghanistan under Russian occupation 

When I was in school, my family and teachers said to me ‘’don’t tell lies, to lie is a bad deed. Thus I had thought only children tell lies some time but older never do.   

In my school were large posters on the wall. The posters had cartoon drawings of traditional men with horn and tail. They were killing children, women, and burning houses and schools. At that time government called Mujaheddin malefactors. On the poster was written: These people are Mujaheddin, they are against development of the country and they kill innocent people. 

We received no good messages about Mujaheddin on TV and Radio. 

The Mujaheddin had killed our school teacher and had burned our school. However, at first the burning of the school was very good news to my classmates, my friends and myself. We didn´t like school. Now we got long holidays. We appreciated this action of mujahedin. But we loved our teacher. 

SO, my classmate friends and I were completely sure Mujaheddin had tails and horns and they committed bad deeds. 

One night as I watched TV, an interviewer was in the Military hospital and said ‘’Now I want to do an interview with an injured mujahed arrested in the fighting. He is under treatment from Military hospital doctors.  

This was the first time I saw a mujahed on TV. I was surprised when seeing that the Mujahed was an ordinary human being, he didn’t have tail and horn. 

So, I asked my mother: “Why doesn’t this mujahed have a tail and horn?” She became angry with me and said »Mujaheddin are human like us. Mujaheddin fight for freedom againast Russian soldiers. Many of our relatives are mujaheddin.” 

Then the interviewer asked the injured mujahed about his health and about the behaviour of the military doctors towards him. The injured mujahed answered “Now my health is good, all the military doctors respect and cure me. I am happy about them. 

Next the interviewer asked a young and beautiful female doctor about the health problem of the injured mujahed.The doctor introduced herself as Shohaila and explained about the injuries of the mujahed. That was the first time I saw Sohaila Sediq. But now I think older people and politicians tell more lies than children. Children many times say the truth. 

Afghanistan during Dr. Najeeb time when Russia left Afghanistan 

I saw General Sohaila many times among generals and military men on TV. Her military uniform pants had a red stripe, and her military coat was full of medals. It was interesting for me. (At that time we had only one Afghan TV channel broadcasting from 6 PM to 12 midnight. At that time women were equal to men. 

Afghanistan during the Mujaheddin time  

My husband was injured. He was in the operation room. I was sitting in the corridor outside of the operation room. There were many injured mujaheddin. General Sohaila came and hugged a young male doctor, encouraged him and said »I am proud. You did a very excellent operation. The injured didn’t like her action but he didn’t say anything to her because they were patients and she was a doctor. They said to each other’’ all doctors are communists’’. The Mujaheddin of that time had some limitation concerning their attitude to women.        

Afghanistan during Taliban time  

1- I was living in Jalalabad. For a few days I came to Kabul to my mother’s house. I was in the postpartum period. My female classmate Marzia (because she had green eyes I called her Greenk) came to my mother’s home and informed me that by the help of General Sohaila a medical class had been started, giving lessons in a military hospital. I joined them. But then I decided not to. I thought I couldn’t study. My house was in Jalalabad, my husband worked in Jalalabad, and we didn’t have a good economic situation. My health was not good. I had borne a baby one week ago. I decided to say goodbye to my studies.

I said to my friend Greenk,» I can’t study, it is impossible’’. She yelled at me saying ’’I am sure you can. I believe one day you will be a good doctor, these problems will finish.’’   

When I agreed, my family and husband did not agree. My friend had a long communication going with them. Finally they accepted. 

(My Greenk always gave me happiness, motivation, relaxation and power. Then she died of cancer. However, I have tried to find another friend like my Greenk, but I couldn’t)  

Greenk and I went to General Sohaila office. She gave us a very warm welcome and checked my documents. Then we went to the class. I couldn’t believe that I was in the class! I thought I were asleep and saw this in a dream. General Sohaila was a woman who was without the burqa under the Taliban era. 

2- One day a student was beaten by a Talib soldier because her face was visible in the burqa. Sohaila became angry with the Talib soldier, took his stick and put it in her office.  

Sohaila was a kind boss. She advised students to hide their faces in burqas and not to use makeup. But our classmates wore stylish pants and put on shiny makeup. 

3- We had an Islamic subject with our teacher Mullah Sahib. One day one of our classmates put a plastic scorpion ( looking very much like a real scorpion) near to the whiteboard cleaner. When Mullah Sahib reached out his hand to grab the cleaner, his hand touched the fake scorpion. He almost panicked, and all of us started laughing. He became angry and left the classroom.  

Then Sohaila came! She was so angry with all the students. She talked like a military person, and commanded us to obey to all diciplinary rules. “We´re in a military hospital. This is not Kabul university!  Next ahe went to see Mullah Sahib and apoligized on the students behalf. . Then Mullah Sahib came back. 

4- One day some classmates said to Sohaila »We asked professorNazeramin(our dermatology teacher ) about you. He was your classmate. He said »Sohaila was so stylish, beautiful, and a proud girl when she was a medical university student, like you. Many boys, I included, proposed for marrying her but Sohaila rejected them all, me too. 

Sohaila was laughing, and said »Yes, it is true! When I was your age, I was so stylish and free. But I studied in the Soviet Union, and it was one of the best countries for women rights, but you are studying in the worst country in the world, women don’t have rights here”.   

5- Sohaila didn’t marry, and all relatives were out of the country. Sohaila had a single sister, older than her. She was a trainer at Kabul university. But she died,and we went to Sohailas house for condolences. She had a nice house in Wazer Akbar Khan, but she was so alone.  

She said to us »My family abroad emphasized that I should leave the country. Now I don’t have anyone here, but I rejected. I love my country and people. I will work during any bad situation and under every bad system. 

Afghanistan during the Hamid Karzai time  

I was a doctor and worked in the hospital. Sohaila was Minister of public health. She visited the hospital. She encouraged us, she was proud of us. By the help of her, we could finish our study under the Taliban government. 

Afghanistan during the Ghani time 

A few years ago, I saw her in the military hospital, she had Alzheimer’s.