Lhe situation of Afghan women today. «Two days ago i Taliban they gathered the men in the mosque and ordered that all unmarried daughters be married off. Fathers who refuse to accept the proposed relative (here we marry between blood relatives) will be punished with prison. When he returned home, my father said that the freedom of his daughters is indisputable and that if the order becomes effective, he will consider taking the family to Iran. My mother couldn’t eat because of her concern”. To speak is Hajira (invented name) who, despite coming from a poor family, at 25 he has two degrees in obstetrics and medicineis chief midwife of the night shift of the EMERGENCY maternity center in Anabah and is studying for admission to the gynecology residency.

    Maternity ward, neonatology ward, observation room. Anabah, Afghanistan, 2019. The photos are taken from Laura Salvinelli’s traveling exhibition AFGHANA. Report from the EMERGENCY Maternity Center in the Panjshir Valley.

    Work is independence for Afghan women

    The postgraduate specialization schools of EMERGENCY they are equivalent to those of the University by the Ministry of Higher Education. Hajira decided to stay single because the his salary is the key to his independence and for the maintenance of the whole family in which she is the only one working – the father has been unemployed for years. “I have never met women as courageous as the 12 gynecology residents I have the privilege of working with. I honestly don’t know where they find the strength and that extra edge. It is normal for them to leave their home in Kabul at 4.30am, run a maternity hospital three and a half hours away in Panjshirwhere in 16 days we assisted 288 deliveries, and once back home, at eight in the evening, studying and taking care of the husband, children, mother-in-law, or family of origin, and the house. They are proud and proud to be working women for women together with other women, and to be breadwinners, like Hajira», Claudia Pagani intervenes.

    The only safe harbor maternity center

    Claudia is 31 years old, she is a pediatric nurse and Medical Coordinator of the Surgical Center for War Victims of the pediatric and maternity hospital of EMERGENCY in Anabah, with a staff of about 750 people in the health and non-healthcare professions. «Maternity, completely managed by 114 women, has remained the only safe haven, where girls study and work hard and well, where their rights are recognized, such as a salary that meets the needs of the family or the 3 months paid when they give birth, and where they can express themselves by freely saying what they think». A last safe haven in the Panjshir Valley, historic stronghold of the mujahideen sworn enemies of the Taliban, the last province to be occupied and the only one to remain militarized, in the most insecure country in the world for women.

    Maternity center, operating room, caesarean delivery of Vida’s 28-year-old daughter. It’s Vida’s fourth C-section. Anabah, Afghanistan, 2019

    Since the return to power of the Koranic students on August 15, 2021, 16 edicts and decrees have progressively reduced women to living segregated and discriminated against in what has been called “gender apartheid”. Afghan women are forced to wear the niqab – the full veil that covers them from head to toe leaving only their eyes free, and that is only the smallest of their problems – and to leave the house only if escorted by the mahram, a man of the family. They can no longer attend secondary schools (middle and high school) and universities, public parks, gymnasiums and swimming pools, work in all sectors except education and health care, be employed by non-governmental organisations. They are being used as pawns in the political game between the ultra-Orthodox Talibanthe clerics, and the so-called pragmatists, more moderate: the restrictions, imposed directly by the supreme guide, Sheikh Haibatullah Hakhundzadaare more or less applied depending on who actually governs the territories.

    Afghanistan, yet another affront to women: the Taliban bans them from university

    On December 20, in the name of the “national interest” and the “honor of women” the Taliban authorities have suspended the access of female students to universities and to public and private specialization schools. The ban denies the future of indispensable professions in a country already impoverished by the brain drain following the change of government, in a society where only women can work for women. It has provoked firm opposition not only from the entire international community, but also from the Muslim community: the OIC, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, has declared it contrary to the teachings of the Koran. Nonetheless, 4 days later, in Afghanistan which is experiencing the most serious humanitarian crisis ever, where out of 40 million inhabitants 24 depend on humanitarian aid, women were banned from working for national and international NGOs.

    Afghan women’s access to medicine

    Maternity center, gynecology room. In the center Marja, team leader, 43 years old. Marja has been a nurse in the intensive care unit of the first Anabah Surgical Center for War Victims since its inauguration in 1999. She Since then she has always worked with EMERGENCY. Anabah, Afghanistan, 2019

    «Although not specified in the last two decrees, the Ministry of Health it excludes both female graduate school students and female NGO staff from the bans who work in the health sector. So, for us, at least for now, nothing has changed. But these restrictions negate the country’s future, especially since only women are allowed to interact with women here, e they further disadvantage the weakest categories: women and children. Furthermore, most of the female NGO staff, like our girls, even the non-skilled ones, with their salaries they support the whole family. Afghanistan can’t go on without women” claims Claudia.

    Field work

    And she adds: «We only remember this part of the world when events happen that upset the opinion of the rest of the world, such as the ban on women attending university, but the crisis in Afghanistan existed before and continues to exist after. One in 14 women dies from pregnancy-related complications. Patients always arrive at the hospital too late – first due to insecurity due to war, now due to extreme poverty: even if our treatments are completely free, they don’t have the money to come to us. For this we have expanded the field program: two days a week our midwives go with the ultrasound to a dozen emergency rooms in the most remote areas to carry out prenatal visits and refer the most serious cases to the hospital”. EMERGENCY has been in Afghanistan since 1999. It has treated more than 8 million people. It manages 3 surgical centres, a maternity hospital, 41 first aid posts, and is present in prisons.

    “To love. Being loved. Never forget your own insignificance. Never get used to the unspeakable violence and gross inequality of life around you. Seek joy in the saddest places. Pursuing beauty into her lair. Never simplify complicated things and never complicate the simple things. Respect force, never power. And above all, look. Try to understand. Never look away. And never, never forget.”

    Let’s not forget the Afghan women

    In War and peace (Guanda, 2002), so Arundhati Roy summarizes what matters in life. A few brave Afghans took to the streets for the first time in the capital and beyond: on the occasion of the Emirate’s anniversary they asked “bread, work and freedom”protested against the massacre of Hazara female students on 30 September and against the ban on access to universities, demonstrated outside the Iranian embassy in solidarity with the “woman, life and freedom” revolt. They were beaten and imprisoned. On 15 January, the 29-year-old activist and former parliamentarian Mursal Nabizada, who exceptionally refused to leave the country to stay close to her people, despite being able to, was murdered in her home at night, together with the bodyguard of she.

    Afghan women ask for our solidarity. Like the Indian writer, we must never take our eyes off her and never forget them. And to support those who help them and are always on the side of rights and peace.