An Afghan Heroine

When the Taliban began to seize power in Afghanistan in 1996, one of the first of their many brutal acts was to confine women to their homes, denying them an education, the right to work and even medical attention. At that time, Dr. Sohaila Seddiq was serving as the Director of the Academy of Medical Sciences the Military Hospital in Kabul, a city still not under Taliban control. As a trained surgeon, Dr. Seddiq had performed hundreds of operations on civilians and soldiers alike and saved countless lives. In recognition for her outstanding work, she was accorded the rank of general in the Afghanistan army, the only Afghan woman to ever receive this honor.

However, when the Taliban entered Kabul they forced Dr. Seddiq to leave her post. But in an act of defiance she refused to submit to the Taliban demand that women be supervised in the homes of male relatives and instead, moved in with her sister, an engineer also forbidden to practice her profession.

Unwilling to be coerced into invisibility and silence, Dr. Seddiq continued to press Taliban officials for the right to resume her medical practice and on the need to supply women with desperately needed medical care. Finally after seven months, the Taliban reinstated her at the military hospital as Chief of Surgery for Women and Children. Dr. Seddiq was one of only a handful of medical professionals allowed to treat women during the Taliban regime.

Today, Dr. Sohaila Seddiq is the Minister of Health for the Transnational Islamic Government of Afghanistan. She was appointed to this post by Interim President Hamid Karzai, as one of only two women named to his cabinet. As Minister of Health, Dr. Seddiq has visited virtually all of Afghanistan's 31 provinces. Under her dynamic leadership, the Afghanistan Ministry of Health is meeting the challenge of restoring, restructuring and rebuilding the health care system of a nation devastated by war and confronted with some of the world's most alarming health care statistics.

Management Sciences for Health recognizes Dr. Seddiq for her courage and strength and is proud to be working with the Afghanistan Ministry of Health to improve the lives of women and children in that country.