Under years of Taliban rule, women nurses work alongside men

Under years of Taliban rule, women nurses work alongside men
This picture taken on October 6, 2021 shows a midwife (L) and a nutrition counselor weighing a baby at the Tangi Saidan clinic run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, in Daymirdad district of Wardak province. (AFP)
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Updated 13 October 2021

Under years of Taliban rule, women nurses work alongside men

Under years of Taliban rule, women nurses work alongside men
  • The Taliban have yet to issue clear guidelines on how they will govern in line with sharia law

DAYMIRDAD, Afghanistan: In a village deep in the mountains of central Afghanistan that has been ruled by the Taliban for a quarter of a century, women openly work alongside men at a vital health clinic.
Tangi Saidan in Wardak province has lived in the shadow of the front line but never been under the full control of government forces since a US-led invasion ousted the brutal and repressive Taliban regime in 2001.
Reached by narrow dirt roads, the Tangi Saidan clinic is alone in offering surgery in the remote area, with local Taliban leaders allowing some flexibility in the movement’s rules on the segregation of the sexes.
“We have to operate here. If we don’t, women will die,” said Sharif Shah, a man and the only surgeon, who carries out procedures on women.
It takes hours to reach the clinic from some surrounding villages, and in the winter, when snow blocks the roads, patients are often carried on foot.
Reaching better health facilities in the capital Kabul, a day trip away on rocky, winding roads, is out of the question for people in this impoverished mountain area.
There are seven women among the clinic’s 28 staff members: one nurse, a vaccine specialist, two midwives, a nutritionist and two cleaners, often working side by side with men.
“When it is necessary, Islamic law permits it,” Mohammad, the Taliban official in charge of health care in Daymirdad district, told AFP.
The Taliban, who seized power in August as US-led forces withdrew from Afghanistan, have yet to issue clear guidelines on how they will govern in line with sharia law.
They initially ordered women to refrain from returning to work until Islamic systems were in place.
The group later called women health workers back to clinics and hospitals, but many were too afraid to resume their duties.
Others in Kabul, the most progressive Afghan city, said rules on segregation made their work too difficult.
But Jamila, the sole female nurse at the Tangi Saidan clinic, said she had never had to worry about working in Daymirdad, although she is chaperoned by a male “mahram,” or guardian, when she does the night shift.
“People don’t have a problem with men doctors, because a doctor is like a mahram,” she said.
Clear rules govern this coexistence — one of few exceptions granted by the Taliban.
When there are no male nurses, a female nurse can care for male patients.
And when there are no female doctors, a male physician can treat women.
“Men and women can work together in the same room, although under normal circumstances there should be a curtain between them,” the Taliban official explained.
Yet at the Tangi Saidan clinic, there is no curtain, and nurse Jamila chats openly with her male colleagues.
In deeply conservative Afghanistan, even in areas under the control of the previous US-backed governments, women and men were expected to be treated by a health professional of the same sex.
Jamila is more concerned with whether she will continue to be paid.
The country’s health service is on the brink of collapse, with Western nations largely halting the aid that propped up Afghanistan’s clinics and hospitals.
Many staff at government health centers have gone months without salaries, while medicines are dwindling and skilled staff such as doctors have fled the country.
The Taliban victory has brought economic hardship but also an end to air strikes and night raids by airdropped government forces in the village, located near a front line.
The clinic run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan was repeatedly targeted by troops looking for Taliban militants, who were treated alongside civilians during the conflict.
Behind its green walls, still pockmarked from automatic fire, Mandanda, a patient in her 60s who has come from a neighboring village for chest pains, is relieved.
“We are no longer losing our children. It is as though the sun has finally risen,” she said.
But in a neighboring bed, Jamila, a 40-year-old mother of seven, is less upbeat.
“They have brought us peace, but we have nothing to eat,” she told AFP.
Mastura, a 27-year-old midwife, recalls with horror an attack on the clinic two years ago — helicopters roaring above, screams, and a gun pointed at her when Afghan government forces charged in.
Two staff members died in the raid.
During her seven years at the clinic, the fear of raids was part of everyday life, but Mastura said she had avoided run-ins with the Taliban.
“They are not in the street saying ‘do this or don’t do that’. They live here with their families as part of society,” she said.
But Mastura is under few illusions about the future under the Islamists.
“My mother and my grandmother had very difficult lives. I am only 27 and my life has already been very difficult.
“I don’t think that it will be any better for my daughter.”


UK to lift travel test requirements for the vaccinated

Passengers arrive at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport in London, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP)
Passengers arrive at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport in London, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP)
Updated 25 January 2022

UK to lift travel test requirements for the vaccinated

Passengers arrive at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport in London, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP)
  • Testing requirements are being lifted for vaccinated adults and all children under 18

LONDON: The British government announced Monday that it is scrapping coronavirus travel testing requirements for the vaccinated, news hailed by the travel industry as a big step back to normality.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “to show that this country is open for business, open for travelers, you will see changes so that people arriving no longer have to take tests if they have been vaccinated, if they have been double vaccinated.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the change would take effect Feb. 11, coinciding with a midterm holiday break for many schoolchildren.
“Border testing of vaccinated travelers has outlived its usefulness,” Shapps said. “Today we are setting Britain free.”
Tourism and travel firms that have been hammered by pandemic restrictions welcomed the move, which makes the UK one of the most open countries in the world for international travel.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of airline industry body Airlines UK, said it was “a landmark day.”
“Nearly two years since the initial COVID restrictions were introduced, today’s announcement brings international travel toward near-normality for the fully vaccinated, and at last into line with hospitality and the domestic economy,” he said.
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of budget airline easyJet, said “testing for travel should now firmly become a thing of the past.”
“It is clear travel restrictions did not materially slow the spread of omicron in the UK and so it is important that there are no more knee-jerk reactions to future variants,” he said.
Currently, travelers who have had at least two vaccine doses must take a rapid coronavirus test within two days of arriving in the UK Those who are unvaccinated face stricter testing and quarantine rules.
Testing requirements are being lifted for vaccinated adults and all children under 18. Britain is also easing rules for the unvaccinated, who will have to take coronavirus tests before and after traveling to Britain but will no longer face quarantine.
Johnson’s Conservative government is also lifting mask mandates and other restrictions this week, and is relying on vaccinations and widespread testing to keep the virus in check.
The UK government sets public health policy for England. The other parts of the UK — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — set their own health rules, but said they would adopt the same rules as England for international travel.
Coronavirus cases in Britain soared in December, driven by the extremely transmissible omicron variant, though hospitalizations and deaths have remained well below previous pandemic peaks.
Britain has seen over 154,000 deaths in the pandemic, the second-worst toll in Europe after Russia.
 


Webb telescope reaches final destination, a million miles from Earth

In this file photo released by NASA, engineering teams at NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Mission Operations Center monitor progress as the observatory’s second primary mirror wing rotates into position. (AFP)
In this file photo released by NASA, engineering teams at NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Mission Operations Center monitor progress as the observatory’s second primary mirror wing rotates into position. (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2022

Webb telescope reaches final destination, a million miles from Earth

In this file photo released by NASA, engineering teams at NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Mission Operations Center monitor progress as the observatory’s second primary mirror wing rotates into position. (AFP)
  • The plan was intentional, because if Webb had gotten too much thrust from the rocket, it wouldn’t be able to turn around to fly back to Earth, as that would expose its optics to the Sun, overheating and destroying them

WASHINGTON: The James Webb Space Telescope has arrived at its cosmic parking spot a million miles away, bringing it a step closer to its mission to unravel the mysteries of the Universe, NASA said Monday.
At around 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (1900 GMT), the observatory fired its thrusters for five minutes to reach the so-called second Lagrange point, or L2, where it will have access to nearly half the sky at any given moment.
The delicate burn added 3.6 miles per hour (1.6 meters per second) to Webb’s overall speed, just enough to bring it into a “halo” orbit around L2, 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.
“Webb, welcome home!” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a statement.
Webb will begin its science mission by summer, which includes using its high resolution infrared instruments to peer back in time 13.5 billion years to the first generation of galaxies that formed after the Big Bang.
At L2, it will stay in line with the Earth as it moves around the Sun, allowing Webb’s sunshield to protect its sensitive equipment from heat and light.
For the giant parasol to offer effective protection, it needs the Sun, Earth and Moon to all be in the same direction, with the cold side operating at -370 degrees Fahrenheit (-225 Celsius).
The thruster firing, known as an orbital burn, was the third such maneuver since Webb was launched on an Ariane 5 rocket on December 25.
The plan was intentional, because if Webb had gotten too much thrust from the rocket, it wouldn’t be able to turn around to fly back to Earth, as that would expose its optics to the Sun, overheating and destroying them.
It was therefore decided to slightly underburn the rocket firing and use the telescope’s own thrusters to make up the difference.
The burns went so well that Webb should easily be able to exceed its planned minimum life of five years, Keith Parrish Webb observatory commissioning manager told reporters on a call.
“Around 20 years, we think that’s probably a good ballpark, but we’re trying to refine that,” he said. It’s hypothetically possible, but not anticipated, that a future mission could go there and refuel it.
Webb, which is expected to cost NASA nearly $10 billion, is one of the most expensive scientific platforms ever built, comparable to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and its predecessor telescope, Hubble.

But while Hubble orbits the Earth, Webb will orbit in an area of space known as a Lagrange point, where the gravitational pull from the Sun and Earth will be balanced by the centrifugal force of the rotating system.
An object at one of these five points, first theorized by Italian French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange, will remain stable and not fall into the gravity well of the Sun and Earth, requiring only a little fuel for adjustments.
Webb won’t sit precisely at L2, but rather go around it in a “halo” at a distance similar to that between the Earth and Moon, completing a cycle every six months.
This will allow the telescope to remain thermally stable and to generate power from its solar panels.
Previous missions to L2 include the European Space Agency’s Herschel and Planck observatories, and NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe.
Webb’s position will also allow continuous communications with Earth via the Deep Space Network — three large antennas in Australia, Spain and California.
Earlier this month, NASA completed the process of unfolding Webb’s massive golden mirror that will collect infrared signals from the first stars and galaxies that formed a few hundred million years after the Universe began expanding.
Visible and ultraviolet light emitted by the very first luminous objects has been stretched by the Universe’s expansion, and arrives today in the form of infrared, which Webb is equipped to detect with unprecedented clarity.
Its mission also includes the study of distant planets, known as exoplanets, to determine their origin, evolution and habitability.
Next steps include aligning the telescope’s optics and calibrating its scientific instruments. It is expected to transmit its first images back in June or July.


2 killed, dozens injured as 2 quakes shake southwest Haiti

A moto-taxi driver transports customers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP)
A moto-taxi driver transports customers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP)
Updated 25 January 2022

2 killed, dozens injured as 2 quakes shake southwest Haiti

A moto-taxi driver transports customers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (AP)

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti: Two moderate earthquakes shook southwest Haiti on Monday, killing two people, injuring dozens of students and damaging hundreds of homes as it created panic in a region that was rocked by a powerful tremor that killed more than 2,000 last summer.
A magnitude 5.3 quake at 8:16 a.m. (1316 GMT) was followed by a magnitude 5.1 quake nearly an hour later. Both were centered on Haiti’s southern peninsula, west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, according to the US Geological Survey. It said both occurred about 10 kilometers (6 miles) below the surface.
Haiti’s civil protection agency said at least two people died and dozens of schoolchildren were injured, adding that 50 people between the ages of 15 and 23 were in a state of shock and taken to the hospital. Officials said 191 homes were destroyed and 591 were damaged in one region.
Yves Bossé, an elected official for the southern department of Nippes, told The Associated Press that one person died when the earthquake caused a landslide at a sand mine. He said homes were cracked and businesses shut down for the day.
“People are scared to go back into their homes,” he said.
Sylvera Guillame, director of Haiti’s civil protection agency for the country’s southern region, told AP that schools in the area closed and sent children home as a precaution.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry offered his condolences to the victims and said his administration would fully support those affected.
A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southwest Haiti on Aug. 14, killing more than 2,200 people and damaging or destroying some 137,500 homes.


Burkina Faso army deposes president in West Africa’s latest coup

Captain Sidsore Kader Ouedraogo, spokesman for the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration, announces that the army has taken control of the country in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso January 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
Captain Sidsore Kader Ouedraogo, spokesman for the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration, announces that the army has taken control of the country in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso January 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 January 2022

Burkina Faso army deposes president in West Africa’s latest coup

Captain Sidsore Kader Ouedraogo, spokesman for the Patriotic Movement for Safeguarding and Restoration, announces that the army has taken control of the country in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso January 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • Kabore had been leading Burkina Faso since being elected in 2015 after a popular uprising ousted longtime strongman President Blaise Compaore

OUAGADOUGOU: Burkina Faso’s army said on Monday it had ousted President Roch Kabore, suspended the constitution, dissolved the government and the national assembly, and closed the country’s borders.
The announcement cited the deterioration of the security situation and what the army described as Kabore’s inability to unite the West African nation and effectively respond to challenges, which include an Islamist insurgency.
Signed by Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba and read by another officer on state television, the announcement said the takeover had been carried out without violence and that those detained were at a secure location.
The statement was made in the name of a previously unheard-of entity, the Patriotic Movement for Safeguard and Restoration, or MPSR, its French-language acronym.
“MPSR, which includes all sections of the army, has decided to end President Kabore’s post today,” it said.
Kabore’s whereabouts were unknown on Monday, with conflicting accounts of his situation.
Army putsches have toppled governments over the past 18 months in Mali and Guinea. The military also took over in Chad last year after President Idriss Deby died fighting rebels on the battlefield in the country’s north.
Landlocked Burkina Faso, one of West Africa’s poorest countries despite being a gold producer, has experienced numerous coups since independence from France in 1960.
The MPSR said it would propose a calendar for a return to constitutional order “within a reasonable time frame, after consultations with various sections of the nation.”
The US State Department on Monday said it was aware of reports that Kabore had been detained by the military and called for his release. It added that it was “too soon” to officially characterize developments in the West African country, when asked if Washington was undertaking a coup assessment.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly condemns any attempted takeover of government by the force of arms” in Burkina Faso and calls on the coup leaders to lay down their weapons, a UN spokesman said after the army statement.
The broadcast came after two days of confusion and fear in Ouagadougou, the capital, where shooting erupted at army camps on Sunday, with soldiers demanding more resources for their fight against Islamist militants.
Several hundred residents gathered in Ouagadougou’s central Place de la Nation to show their support for the coup.
“We are really happy. We have been out for two days to support the army,” said Ibrahim Zare. “We are behind them.”
Intense gunfire was heard in the area around Kabore’s residence overnight.
Earlier, Kabore’s party said he had survived an assassination attempt, but gave no details. It also said his personal residence had been sacked.

POPULAR SUPPORT
Several armored vehicles belonging to the presidential fleet could be seen near Kabore’s residence on Monday, riddled with bullets. One was spattered with blood.
Security sources gave conflicting accounts of Kabore’s situation, with some saying he was being detained by the coup organizers and others saying forces loyal to him had taken him to a secure location. Reuters could not independently verify his circumstances.
Islamist militants control swathes of Burkina Faso’s territory and have forced residents in some areas to abide by their harsh version of Islamic law, while the military’s struggle to quell the insurgency has drained scarce national resources.
Kabore had faced waves of protests in recent months amid frustration over killings of civilians and soldiers by militants, some of whom have links to Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
Ouagadougou resident Eli Sawagogo said the coup had not come as a surprise to him.
“It was expected because the country has been in this situation for six years without a real solution to this terrorism,” he said. “If a coup is the solution, then it is welcome.”
Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said Kabore’s government had shown itself unable to tackle a range of problems.
“The coup, and apparent support for it, lays bare the inadequacies of Kabore’s government to address deep-seated problems with corruption, governance and civilian protection, which were all made exponentially worse by the armed Islamist threat,” she said.


Entry of Iranian apples sours Kashmiri fruit industry

In this photo taken on Jan. 13, 2022 a fruit vendor waits for customers at his store in Shopian district, Indian-administered Kashmir. There are fears of crisis with the arrival of Iranian apples. (AN photo)
In this photo taken on Jan. 13, 2022 a fruit vendor waits for customers at his store in Shopian district, Indian-administered Kashmir. There are fears of crisis with the arrival of Iranian apples. (AN photo)
Updated 25 January 2022

Entry of Iranian apples sours Kashmiri fruit industry

In this photo taken on Jan. 13, 2022 a fruit vendor waits for customers at his store in Shopian district, Indian-administered Kashmir. There are fears of crisis with the arrival of Iranian apples. (AN photo)
  • The new apples on the Indian market have devalued Kashmir’s fruit sector
  • Worth $1.34 billion, the apple industry contributes up to 10 percent of Kashmir’s GDP

NEW DELHI: Tajamul Habib Makroo was hoping a bumper crop of apples this year would help him recover from huge losses due to early snowfalls in the previous harvest season, but now he says a new crisis is looming: The arrival of cheap Iranian fruits, which growers like Makroo fear could upend horticulture in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

Concentrated in the southern Shopian district, the state’s apple industry contributes 1.8 million tons of the fruit, or 80 percent of India’s annual production, and involves over 5 million workers in the region.

With annual production worth about $1.34 billion, it saw a sudden drop in value last year, when cheap Iranian apples entered the Indian market via Afghanistan, which boasts a free trade agreement with New Delhi.

“Today’s market is very down, rates are down because the apples coming from Iran have brought the apple prices in India down,” Makroo, who has orchards in Sugan village, Shopian, told Arab News.

He said the Iranian apples have slashed the price of local produce in half.

“Earlier, I used to get 1,200 rupees ($16) per box, today the rate is 600,” Makroo added. “The rate we are getting is not able to cover production costs.” In early January, the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers-cum-Dealers Union, an apex body representing Kashmiri fruit growers, wrote a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to save the industry.

Bashir Ahmad Bashir, the union’s president, said Iranian apples were cheap due to international sanctions imposed on Tehran.

“We have taken up the matter with the Indian government when we came to know about it and warned the government that if the products come to India from Iran, (the) Indian horticulture industry will suffer a lot,” Bashir told Arab News, adding that imposing duties on Iranian fruits could help save the domestic industry.

Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad, president of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said a lack of intervention would deal a major blow to the local economy. “It’s 8 percent to 10 percent of our GDP of Kashmir,” he told Arab News. “When unemployment is a big challenge for Jammu and Kashmir in this situation the government should take strong notice of it and should defend our people.”

 

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