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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 17:15 GMT
Profile: Suhaila Seddiqi
Suhaila Seddiqi
Seddiqi is a household name in Afghanistan
Afghanistan's new health minister is something of a local celebrity.

Suhaila Seddiqi, an independent Tajik, is one of two women ministers appointed to the country's post-Taleban government.

She first entered the spotlight during the Soviet era, when she was awarded the rank of general by the pro-Moscow government of Najibullah Siddiq.

I didn't marry because I didn't want to take any orders from a man.

Suhaila Seddiqi

Often referred to as "General Suhaila", Ms Seddiqi is Afghanistan's most respected surgeon.

She spent two decades working in Kabul's 400-bed military hospital, and her abdominal surgery is credited with saving hundreds of lives.

She played a pivotal role in keeping hospitals going in the 1990s, when rocket attacks killed and injured thousands.

Taleban era

Ms Seddiqi also managed to keep working throughout five years of Taleban rule - but only after the new regime realised how much they needed her.

Ms Seddiqi was initially removed from her post as head of surgery at Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan hospital when the Taleban swept to power in 1996.

But the new leaders quickly discovered it was a mistake to deprive themselves of the skills of Afghanistan's most famous surgeon.

Months after they had ordered her to stay at home, the doctor was reinstated.

In an interview at the time, Ms Seddiqi voiced her contempt for the Taleban and its policy of barring women from the workplace and the classroom.

"I didn't marry because I didn't want to take any orders from a man," the Guardian newspaper quoted her as saying. "Look at us now."

Ms Seddiqi has close links to the family of the former Afghan king, who fled the country. In spite of this, she stayed in Afghanistan through both the Soviet and Taleban eras.

See also:

06 Dec 01 | South Asia
Profile: Sima Samar
06 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's new women politicians
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's Northern Alliance
16 Sep 01 | South Asia
Thousands mourn anti-Taleban leader
11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Profile: The Lion of Panjshir
11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghan opposition's prospects
11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Masood's regional allies
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