Afghanistan is where women cry that certain way you know is apocalyptic.
“Two things that I can say about the Taliban, is that they do not protest our bunny suits as not being halal, and they kill ISIS when ISIS attacks civilians. So, for me, it’s next patient on my list. Life goes on,” explains nurse Gracie Edwards, a Syrian nurse in Kandahar province, who was raised by her family since a teen, in Canada. This is her third Asian country.
- “I can honestly say, continued Gracie Edwards, that every day I meet a patient, at least one person a day, that if I was not here, they would die by week’s end. At least one a day. That’s how badly people have been cared for. Awful. Now think of the people no one sees.
- “I have taken vitals of women, blood pressure so far out of limits, that I have never seen this before. One week was so bad I was carrying clonidine sublinguals in a pocket and running out for more the next day.
- “They have guns aplenty here but we can’t find enough syringes, etc.
- “I have my own PPE.
- “I only ever eat vegetables so I can’t say anything special about the food here.
- “I sleep with my music earphones so the explosions do not wake me up.
- “I don’t worry about fighting for my rights because I do not have any rights.
- “I don’t mind dressing head to heel because being Syrian from the Mediteranian coast, I am very very white and people can tell I am Syrian. So covering is good.”
- “I can’t complain about the money because there’s nothing in my purse to complain about. But I am fed. The ordinary people are nice. The folks I am staying with are pure gold, to me. They hate the Taliban but they are glad the Americans are gone.
- “Right now I am being cool and taking in the lay of the land. There are three of us working together since the end of last year plus double that number working on a training program. We are watching, listening and learning before we give the OK for more of us to come here.”
- “And I cannot say everything for this public story.”
“There is an endless list of serious chronic illness among the communities where Grace is working,” explains Geraldine Frisque, spokesperson for the RINJ Women, a global civil society women’s rights group. Ms. Frisque insisted on being included in the interview conversation and pointed out caveats that related only to security of the women in Kandahar. FPMag had no disagreements about what could and could not be reported.
“For too long Afghan family health has not been cared for,” noted Ms. Frisque. “So that’s Grace’s job for now, updating women’s health care after their being abandoned thus far in the pandemic. She will build a new trust in her new community. In her new role Grace is dealing with a broad mix of women’s and children’s medical issues and getting better at doing that every day,” added Ms. Frisque.
FPMag asked Grace about the clash of cultures between the American way and the traditional Afghanistan thinking. Her perspective is from both worlds.
“I heard about the big abortion fight in America, commented Ms. Edwards. “Most people here would not even talk about such a thing.”
“How can American men be like that when every day I fight to keep a little one alive and they fight about who is allowed to kill one? It’s a crazy clash of culture,” she said.
“It’s really about birth control” she suggested.
“The health care in America is worse than here. Only the rich are treated. That means that birth control is expensive. A progestagen IUS costs nearly a thousand dollars in America and who can afford that? Next comes the unwanted pregnancy and the abortion question. Using abortion as a method of birth control is pure and simple murder. Don’t have sex if you don’t want a baby and can’t be bothered with contraception.
“America should give every women and girl free birth control choices. It’s really stupid that they don’t,” added the seasoned nurse. “US girls close to the border were sneaking into Canada to get inexpensive BC until the pandemic,” she exclaimed. “Others just got ‘prego’.
“Ironically, America needs babies. Their society needs to get rid of the guns and make it safe to have babies. Then women would do that again. Right now the US population is plummeting because women don’t want to have babies. That’s what politicians should be focussed on, cleaning up the mess and making it safe again. Why have a baby if it will be doomed to live homeless on the sidewalks of the inner cities? A bigger issue is that more people are killed by violence in the USA than here in Afghanistan.”
“People here need medicine for their babies, said Grace with a quivering voice.
“They need food. They need clean water. They need health care and they need safety. I know I have seen worse but I can see this place is going to grow worse. The neglect of 20 years is visible. Only the players with government connections have done well. The American authorities and the military were corrupt but the US humanitarians plus the ordinary soldiers were angels. That’s how people see it. One woman explained me this story about her little boy. A soldier gave the little boy all his lunch. Every day!” she emphasized. “But that little boy and the soldier were nothing and had nothing because the Generals and the Kabul government took everything for themselves. That’s what she said to me. My face shield fogged up all day after hearing that. Yes, some very good Americans were here. They are the ones who are missed. The sadness of those stories is heartbreaking. Kids and dogs have lost many many dear American friends—American mere boys dressed like soldiers—friends. Gone.”
Fate of women’s rights in Afghanistan. What rights?
In September 2020, the Brooking Institute in a report on the fate of women’s rights in Afghanistan, commented that, “The deal that the United States signed with the Taliban in Doha on February 29, 2020, leaves the future of Afghan women completely up to the outcomes of the intra-Taliban negotiations and battlefield developments. In exchange for the withdrawal of its forces by summer 2021, the United States only received assurances from the Taliban that the militants would not attack U.S. and its allies’ targets, conduct terrorist attacks against U.S. and allies’ assets, or allow the territory under Taliban control to be used for such terrorist attacks.”
There was no agreement for women’s rights in Afghanistan. They have none, as Gracie Edwards says.
When asked about the quarrels between ISIS, al Qaeda and the Taliban, she said, “I am not even going to talk about that. If they can organize any kind of attack on America in the next little while from within this mess, I’ll eat my face mask.”
“Every man here tries to look like ISIS.
“It’s better now in one way, because this government will never allow gender equality and if women don’t complain they don’t get murdered. But what good is gender equality if you have no food and medicine. People focus on priorities. When I came here the women journalists and broadcast media women were being literally slaughtered over the past couple of years. Message received. The Americans being here did not stop that. The stupid politicians gave the women awards posthumously. But those women wanted to live! WTF,” she exclaimed.
“The thing that worries me now,” she said, “is that the old women are crying all the time. You ask why and there is no answer. There is no answer. One little boy explained that his grandma had never seen care and kindness in her whole life but I was not sure. It’s this thing about wise women. And when they cry softly, a lot, in my part of the world where I was born, it means very very bad things are about to happen, or have happened. They cried like this, it is said in my birth culture, that the women cried all the week before King Herod initiated a murder of all the infants in Bethlehem. I feel that I am seeing that. My sphygmomanometer says the young women are dying and my heart feels the old women crying.
“I am seeing women’s tears that scare me. “