Suhaila Siddiq, Afghanistan’s First Female General, Is Dead
KABUL, Afghanistan — Suhaila Siddiq, Afghanistan’s first feminine lieutenant common, who was additionally a famend surgeon and unknowingly turned a feminist function mannequin in a largely patriarchal society, died right here on Friday, on the identical hospital the place she had handled the wounded and weary of her nation’s never-ending battle for many years. She was regarded as 81 or 82, although her precise delivery date is unknown.
General Siddiq, who had Alzheimer’s illness for a number of years, died from problems of the coronavirus on the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan army hospital in Kabul, one among her docs, Amanullah Aman, stated. It was her second battle with the virus; she had contracted it earlier this 12 months.
General Siddiq rose via the ranks of the Afghan Army in the course of the Cold War and went on to run the Daud Khan hospital via the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Afghan civil battle and the Taliban’s rule. She was additionally one among Afghanistan’s few feminine ministers, overseeing the general public well being ministry till 2004 beneath the transitional authorities led by Hamid Karzai, following the U.S. invasion. In that function, she helped implement polio vaccinations throughout the nation after the illness had turn into endemic following years of instability and violence. She went again to her job as a surgeon after she left her authorities place.
General Siddiq “dedicated herself to serving her country,” Mr. Karzai said Friday on Twitter. President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan paid his respects throughout a memorial ceremony on the hospital on Saturday.
As a surgeon, General Siddiq was recognized for her deft hand, and regardless of her unassuming stature she was described by those that knew her as self-possessed and unintimidated by individuals round her, particularly males.
In the mid-Nineteen Eighties, on the top of the Soviet-Afghan battle, the Communist-backed authorities in Kabul promoted her to surgeon common of the Afghan Army after she had distinguished herself by tirelessly saving the lives of the tons of of wounded troopers and civilians who poured in via the doorways of the 400-bed Daud Khan hospital. She was referred to as “General Suhaila.”
“She was much better than any men I’ve ever worked with,” stated Atiqullah Amarkhel, a retired Afghan common, who had been promoted to his place inside months of General Siddiq. “She wouldn’t go home for days.”
General Siddiq was born in Kabul, most likely in 1938. She attended highschool after which Kabul University as her nation was quietly altering beneath the burden of the Cold War. She studied in Moscow for a number of years on scholarship after which returned to Afghanistan along with her doctorate. In the years earlier than the Soviet invasion in 1979, when she was a lieutenant colonel, she labored as a surgeon on the Daud Khan hospital.
One of six sisters, General Siddiq was the daughter of a person who was as soon as the governor of Kandahar, and who was supportive of her training. She traced her ancestry to the Barakzai dynasty, which dominated Afghanistan for greater than 100 years in the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
General Siddiq by no means married. Information about survivors was not instantly accessible.
After the collapse of the Communist authorities in 1992, General Siddiq retained her place within the hospital beneath the interim authorities established on the outset of the Afghan civil battle.
Kabul was quickly cut up as competing factions vied for management. Ahmad Shah Massoud, then the protection minister, personally requested General Siddiq to run the hospital, as civilian casualties mounted within the capital following incessant rocket assaults by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the appointed prime minister, towards his adversaries, stated Sher Ahmad, an in depth household buddy.
“She believed in her job, not in any regime,” Mr. Ahmad stated.
But in 1996 the Taliban took Kabul, and so they shortly enforced draconian rule beneath a harsh interpretation of Islamic legislation. Women weren’t allowed to carry most jobs and had been required to cowl their faces in public.
Kathy Gannon, a reporter for The Associated Press, was in Kabul as the town fell and the brand new Taliban authorities started to ship girls house from their jobs, together with General Siddiq, prompting Ms. Gannon to write down an article about her.
General Siddiq and her sister Shafiqa, a professor at Kabul Polytechnic University, “were smart and funny and they weren’t going to be intimidated,” Ms. Gannon stated. “But also, the Taliban learned quickly that they needed her.”
Within months, the Taliban, already attempting to retain individuals with sought-after technical talents and better training, requested General Siddiq to return to her job on the hospital, the place she tended to lots of the regime’s wounded fighters. She carried out many operations beneath the flickering gentle of a lantern, Mr. Ahmad recalled.
“They needed me and they asked me to come back,” General Siddiq stated in a 2002 interview with the British newspaper The Guardian. “It is a matter of pride for me. I stayed in my country, and I served my people. I never fled abroad.”
General Siddiq and her sister had been among the many few girls who walked round Kabul with out face coverings or a burqa — a daring assertion towards the Taliban, who left her unscathed due to her place on the hospital.
At the identical time, General Siddiq taught drugs to feminine college college students whose tutorial careers had swiftly ended beneath Taliban rule. On not less than one event, the federal government tried to crack down on her educating, however General Siddiq pushed again, stated Makai Siawash, an in depth buddy who lived with General Siddiq for a quick time.
“She was ready to get whipped by them, but she didn’t let the Taliban fighters in,” Ms. Siawash stated.
One of her college students was Sayeda Amarkhel, the daughter of retired General Amarkhel, who studied beneath General Siddiq on the hospital after her time at college was lower brief beneath the Taliban.
“She fought the Taliban for us,” Dr. Amarkhel stated. “Today I am a gynecologist, and I owe it to her.”