KABUL, Afghanistan — Suhaila Siddiq, Afghanistan’s first feminine lieutenant common, who was additionally a famend surgeon and unknowingly grew to become 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 endless conflict for many years. She was considered 81 or 82, although her actual delivery date is unknown.
Common Siddiq, who had Alzheimer’s illness for a number of years, died from issues of the coronavirus on the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan navy hospital in Kabul, one in every of her medical doctors, Amanullah Aman, mentioned. It was her second battle with the virus; she had contracted it earlier this yr.
Common Siddiq rose by way of the ranks of the Afghan Military through the Chilly Battle and went on to run the Daud Khan hospital by way of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Afghan civil conflict and the Taliban’s rule. She was additionally one in every of Afghanistan’s few feminine ministers, overseeing the general public well being ministry till 2004 underneath 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.
Common Siddiq “devoted herself to serving her nation,” 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, Common Siddiq was identified for her deft hand, and regardless of her unassuming stature she was described by those that knew her as self-possessed and unintimidated by folks round her, particularly males.
Within the mid-Eighties, on the top of the Soviet-Afghan conflict, the Communist-backed authorities in Kabul promoted her to surgeon common of the Afghan Military after she had distinguished herself by tirelessly saving the lives of the a whole bunch of wounded troopers and civilians who poured in by way of the doorways of the 400-bed Daud Khan hospital. She was often called “Common Suhaila.”
“She was significantly better than any males I’ve ever labored with,” mentioned Atiqullah Amarkhel, a retired Afghan common, who had been promoted to his place inside months of Common Siddiq. “She wouldn’t go dwelling for days.”
Common Siddiq was born in Kabul, most likely in 1938. She attended highschool after which Kabul College as her nation was quietly altering underneath the burden of the Chilly Battle. She studied in Moscow for a number of years on scholarship after which returned to Afghanistan along with her doctorate. Within 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.
Certainly one of six sisters, Common Siddiq was the daughter of a person who was as soon as the governor of Kandahar, and who was supportive of her schooling. She traced her ancestry to the Barakzai dynasty, which dominated Afghanistan for greater than 100 years through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Common Siddiq by no means married. Details about survivors was not instantly obtainable.
After the collapse of the Communist authorities in 1992, Common Siddiq retained her place within the hospital underneath the interim authorities established on the outset of the Afghan civil conflict.
Kabul was quickly break up as competing factions vied for management. Ahmad Shah Massoud, then the protection minister, personally requested Common Siddiq to run the hospital, as civilian casualties mounted within the capital following incessant rocket assaults by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the appointed prime minister, in opposition to his adversaries, mentioned Sher Ahmad, an in depth household good friend.
“She believed in her job, not in any regime,” Mr. Ahmad mentioned.
However in 1996 the Taliban took Kabul, they usually rapidly enforced draconian rule underneath a harsh interpretation of Islamic legislation. Girls weren’t allowed to carry most jobs and had been required to cowl their faces in public.
Kathy Gannon, a reporter for The Related Press, was in Kabul as town fell and the brand new Taliban authorities started to ship girls dwelling from their jobs, together with Common Siddiq, prompting Ms. Gannon to put in writing an article about her.
Common Siddiq and her sister Shafiqa, a professor at Kabul Polytechnic College, “had been sensible and humorous they usually weren’t going to be intimidated,” Ms. Gannon mentioned. “But additionally, the Taliban realized rapidly that they wanted her.”
Inside months, the Taliban, already making an attempt to retain folks with sought-after technical skills and better schooling, requested Common Siddiq to return to her job on the hospital, the place she tended to most of the regime’s wounded fighters. She carried out many operations underneath the flickering mild of a lantern, Mr. Ahmad recalled.
“They wanted me they usually requested me to come back again,” Common Siddiq mentioned in a 2002 interview with the British newspaper The Guardian. “It’s a matter of satisfaction for me. I stayed in my nation, and I served my folks. I by no means fled overseas.”
Common 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 in opposition to the Taliban, who left her unscathed due to her place on the hospital.
On the identical time, Common Siddiq taught medication to feminine college college students whose educational careers had swiftly ended underneath Taliban rule. On not less than one event, the federal government tried to crack down on her educating, however Common Siddiq pushed again, mentioned Makai Siawash, an in depth good friend who lived with Common Siddiq for a quick time.
“She was able to get whipped by them, however she didn’t let the Taliban fighters in,” Ms. Siawash mentioned.
Certainly one of her college students was Sayeda Amarkhel, the daughter of retired Common Amarkhel, who studied underneath Common Siddiq on the hospital after her time at college was lower brief underneath the Taliban.
“She fought the Taliban for us,” Dr. Amarkhel mentioned. “Immediately I’m a gynecologist, and I owe it to her.”