Female Dentists are Disappearing in Afghanistan

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Female Dentists are Disappearing in Afghanistan

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  3. General Dentistry Articles
  4. Female Dentists are Disappearing in Afghanistan
Female Dentists Are Disappearing In Afghanistan In Bacchus Marsh, Melton & Ballan - Bacchus Marsh Dental House

The Afghanistan experiment is over. Female dentists, like all female health professionals are disappearing in Afghanistan, and not just from sight. The American-led Western coalition’s 20 years of fighting the Taliban and attempting to graft western democracy onto a tribal Islamic culture has failed on both scores. Westerners got on the ‘let’s invade another sovereign country’ bandwagon when they thought they could impose their values on the Taliban. All those dreadful burkas really bothered western observers and they wanted to fight the injustices they saw on behalf of Afghan women. The majority of us would probably agree with these sentiments but you cannot do these things at the point of a gun and hope to be successful in the long run.

Women Dentists In Afghanistan

President Joe Biden was pilloried for the disastrous US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden was, however, the only president with the guts to get out. Obama shirked it, as did Trump. Female dentists are disappearing from Afghanistan because the educated class are getting out of the country en-masse.

“Dozens of Afghan refugees hoping to emigrate to the West have become stranded in Pakistan, sheltering in a squalid camp in the capital, Islamabad. They fled Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power in 2021. Women vastly outnumber men at the refugee camp and hope for asylum in the West but remain in limbo. RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal visited the camp where refugees struggle to survive on handouts from charities.”

Female health care professionals have been thin on the ground in this nation seemingly forever. The Taliban being back in power just makes things all the more difficult. It is not all bad news, however, there are a few bright examples.

“Latifa Naziri is the only female dentist in Firozkoh, the capital of Afghanistan’s central Ghor Province. Her dental clinic just opened its doors in January 2023 but already sees dozens of patients every day. They say her success is a breakthrough that gives other women hope.”
Radio Free Europe

Afghan Healthcare Crisis Coming

The Afghanistan healthcare sector received more than $1 billion investment over 2018-19. This managed to fund around 3600 facilities and 32,000 healthcare workers. The International Rescue Committee is predicting that 90% of all health clinics in the country will shut down without adequate funding. 

Doctors and dentists are under fire from the dire situation facing the country post-Taliban takeover. The west is faced with the reality of a nation under the control of a regime it despises but, also, a population rapidly descending into human crises on multiple fronts.

“In 2020, Afghanistan had 2.78 doctors per 100 people, compared with around 20 per 1000 people in high income countries.5 Almost two years after the Taliban takeover that number has plummeted to 0.33 doctors per 1000 people.”
– Sally Howard, How the Taliban are destroying female doctors in Afghanistan, the BMJ

Without doctors and dentists primary healthcare is impossible to deliver to the people of Afghanistan.

The truth about Afghanistan is that the male population of the country is ultimately responsible for the state of its culture. The Taliban can be pinpointed as the extreme arm of this male hegemony but it is the ingrained attitudes of ordinary Afghan men that supports the existence of the Taliban.

Who Are The Afghans?

There are various ethnic groups living in Afghanistan. Each of these has their own culture, own language, traditions, and history. Thus, the story of Afghanistan is rich in diversity and not easily understood as a single narrative. The Pashtuns make up the largest ethic grouping in the country. Some 40% of the populace are Pashtun. Pashto is their language and they are traditionally Sunni Muslims. Known for their strong sense of tribal identity, this often outweighs any national affiliation.

The Tajiks are the next most populous group with around 25% of Afghans making up their number. These mostly Shia Muslims speak Dari, which originated from Persia. The Tajiks are more urbanised than their Pashtun compatriots.

The Hazaras are another Shia Muslim ethnic group. Making up some 10-15% of Afghanistan’s population, the Hazaras have faced genocide at the hands of the Taliban. This persecution has happened over many years but was at its worst in the 1990s.

The Turkish speaking Uzbeks are another Sunni Muslim grouping within Afghanistan. They make up some 6-8% of the population and live in northern Afghanistan. Predominantly merchants or farmers traditionally.

The Aimaks are also Sunni Muslims living predominantly in western Afghanistan. Estimated to be around 2-4% of the population. These folk are traditionally nomadic and pastoralist.

Balochis are Sunni Muslim and mainly reside in southern Afghanistan. They make up some 2-3% of the Afghan population. Balochis are known for their tribal identity, and have a history of conflict with the central government. They have strong links to neighbouring Iran and Pakistan.

Nuristanis are a smaller ethnic grouping residing in eastern Afghanistan in the main. Probably making up less than 1% of the population. Nuristanis are predominantly Sunni Muslim. The Nuristanis are known for being one of the few groups in Afghanistan that practice polytheistic religion.

The Educated Afghans Historically

History tells us that Afghanistan has had a small section or class of educated people. These Afghans have traditionally been men but in recent years more women have benefitted from higher education. However, the Taliban rule from 1996 to 2002 curbed this growing trend at the time. The two decades of American backed rule saw great increases in the number of women receiving access to education and training. Once again the Taliban are back in power and reports from Afghanistan about female access to education are not good. Female university students are being blocked from attending their universities by the Taliban.

Pashtuns make up the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, and therefore, have in the past had more access to education, and on this basis, have been overrepresented within the educated class. This has changed, somewhat, in recent times, with a growing number of Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, and other ethnic groups joining the subset of those classed as well-educated , particularly among the younger generation of Afghans.

Afghanistan made great strides in terms of educating and training people for important societal roles, so it is a terrible shame to see this progress wrecked by the Taliban. Female dentists are disappearing in Afghanistan along with doctors and other essential healthcare professionals. Taking a nation backward is a crime in human rights terms and the lives it will cost will be substantial in number.

Who Are The Taliban?

The Taliban is largely comprised of Pashtuns, as they are the largest ethnic grouping in Afghanistan. It is understood that a majority of the Taliban’s key leaders and members are Pashtuns. The Taliban emerged in the early 1990s from Pashtun tribal groups, as they had successfully fought against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The Taliban quickly came to power in the mid-1990s via their armed status as conquering defenders. The Taliban imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic law in the country from 1996-2001.

The Taliban, on their return to power following the debacle of the American departure from Afghanistan, have stated that they have changed. Telling the western media that they are more amenable to greater female access to things like jobs and training. The proof will be in the pudding, however.

“On 18 December 2022 the Taliban suspended university education for women. The next day Zubair arrived at her training hospital to find that her entry was barred. Armed forces at the door informed her that female students were no longer allowed to cross the threshold into the hospital. Since then Zubair has been stranded at her apartment, “waiting and hoping” for the authorities to overturn their edict.

“By our count there are 105 female students left in Afghanistan,” says Shah Qureshi, a junior doctor who hails from Pakistan and is based at Rokhan Medical University in Jalalabad and is the ambassador for Pakistani medical students in Afghanistan. “They are helpless and anxious and cannot continue their studies.” Qureshi is campaigning for his stranded countrywomen to be recognised by the Pakistan government and allowed to transfer their credits to public colleges in their home nation.”
– Sally Howard, How the Taliban are destroying female doctors in Afghanistan, the BMJ

What Can We Do To Help Reverse This Problem?

For Australian dentists who are used to championing the human rights, and rights to education and to work in fulfilling careers such as the one enjoyed by our female dentist Dr Elly Huang, it seems incomprehensible that entire countries suppress women so fiercely that performing a public good such as dental services can actually be punished by prison, beatings, or even death.

You can choose to be involved with Amnesty International by checking out this article: Women, Protest and Power – Confronting the Taliban and becoming a supporter of their work.

Stay up to date with the news on women’s rights in Afghanistan by reading global news media such as Al Jazeera as well as articles on the BBC – you may also choose to read about the subject on the Human Rights Watch website.

Note: All content and media on the Bacchus Marsh Dental House website and social media channels are created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.

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