Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Healthcare centre of the Foundation for the Free Women in Rojava

The following day I visited the Foundation of the Free Women of Rojava's healthcare centre in Qamishlo. It consisted of one doctor and four other workers who had been trained by the doctor in medical issues related to women, children, and war. All were volunteers. Doctor Ronahi was the most inspiring woman I had ever met up until this point in my entire life. A European by birth, she had committed her life to this struggle after spending years on the front line providing immediate medical care to injured heroes of Rojava. She now works at the centre, no salary, training new female workers, providing care for up to thirty women and children per day, until the centre closes at 14:00, after which she heads to the front line to continue her work. The centre is the cheapest place for women and children to see a GP, some walk from villages for up to two hours to reach the only place they can afford.

”We charge 300 Syrian Pounds (13 SEK) per visit, but that also includes medicine, if I have it. With the money I buy small things like needles for IV drips and syringes for medication. All other clinics and hospitals charge more than 1500 Syrian Pounds per visit, then the medicine is 1000 or more on top of that. The whole of Rojava has a huge shortage of medicine now. We have an embargo from all sides – in the South is Daesh, in the North is Turkey who closed all borders for trade years ago, and now in the East so has Iraqi Kurdistan. The KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government (in Iraq)) have blockaded Rojava since the massacre in Shengal, closing borders for people and ever increasingly so for trade. So now I have to improvise with medicine. I find out which is the cheapest version and mix the ingredients myself to create what should be given. It's turns out the same, just not sugar-coated like in Europe. *laughing*. We have a huge load of medicine waiting in Germany to bring here, but until the embargo from the KRG side, we can't bring it. No amount of individual smuggling of a few packets will make up for the need Rojava has.”

An Arabic woman walks into the centre with her child so the doctor interrupts the interview. She attends to the girl who has a large abscess. Ronahi returns. ”I had to send her to the hospital. The abscess was inside the limph node, so she needs an operation. I know some doctors there who will do it for cheaper if I send a note.”

”I'm educated as a GP and also as a gnocologist. But I've had to learn so much more than that. Here, I mostly perform blood tests, urine tests, I treat basic infections, checks for problems with breasts, I perform abortions too, but I only have the pills that were used up until the 80's in Europe, but it works. If I see that something is wrong with the uterus then I have to send them to the hospital because I don't have the equipment here for the cleaning. I also have to take over when there is a woman giving birth and there are complications. I've seen it so many times that if a birth gets complicated then the midwife breaks down and can't continue - most haven't had the full training, they take the job because there's nobody else to do it.”
”I believe in the ideology behind Rojava - that the people, everyone, should take charge of their lives, empower themselves to live independently from hierarchy and leaders, making their own decisions collectively, living in peace away from the reality of capitalism. So I feel that my contribution here is worth more than any I could do anywhere else.”

After hours of deeply interesting conversation, realising that this doctor is the definition of an angel and that this healthcare centre is a project that all anti-capitalists and supporters of Rojava would approve of – I presented to them 500 US dollars (around 4000 SEK) of the money donated in the week before my arrival in Rojava. The money will be spent on medical equipment and medicine if available.

Presenting the 500 dollars in this way to be transparent to those who donated!