Woman Plus...
  N 1, 2002

The mountains make you think more

I met Aishat Magomedova at the conference "Caucasian Women take part in the creating of the world" in Tbilisi little more than a year ago. At once she attracted my attention with her activity and practicality in the best meaning of this word. Later we met at other meetings in which she participated as the president of the League of mother and child protection of Daghestan. Aishat told about herself very little but I got to know that she was the head physician at the Charitable hospital for women in Mahachkala, which was established with Aishat and her relatives private money, and due to the help of other sponsors (Benevolence International Foundation - Chicago) has been functioning for already more than five years.

I know the Caucasian culture and traditions very well and understand how difficult it is to be an independent woman and realize such prominent projects in such a small and poor republic as Daghestan. I would like to see everything with my own eyes, and we arranged about coming to Aishat to see her "creation".

When we arrived in Mahachkala where the hospital was situated, I was impressed by the wide scope of the project - it is a whole block in the down town: several one- and two-storied buildings. Among them there is a hospital for 20 beds, with excellent wards, with its own canteen, kitchen and bakery. There is a wash-house and a sewing workshop, where girls from a children's home study. And love is felt everywhere, everything is blanched. We were shown an operating-room, entirely ready for work but unfortunately not acting yet (it seems to me that Aishat doesn't manage to get a licence as some people cannot put up with the fact that she renders medical care free of charge). A nicely equipped polyclinic is situated in a separate building. There is a separate room for praying; the hospital employees call it "psychotherapeutic room" since when the Muslim women are praying they cannot swear and argue in this room. We were told that children of one of the patients were killed during the Chechen intrusion on the territory of Daghestan and she was full of hatred, but she was praying in this room together with Chechen women she managed to become reconciled with them.

The project of a Charitable hospital becomes wider - Aishat dreams of opening a stomatological room, in a small house there are courses for hospital nurses.

Aishat Magomedova is a religious Muslim woman. At the same time she is tolerant to the people practicing other religions. Her attitude and love of Life and Human being inspire my great respect for her cultural wealth, traditions and Faith. I am very grateful that she, without knowing it herself, helped me to overcome my own stereotypes in the attitude towards Muslims and Islam.

Women of any nationality and religion are rendered assistance at her hospital. They only ask whether you have a passport understanding that they are responsible for human safety.

Aishat is well known in Hasavurt, in the places for refuges and displaced persons. And though we didn't ask about it, but seeing joy with which she is met by the people, we understood that she helped them a lot and had prestige with them.

The main feature of Aishat is love of a Human being, especially of a Woman. And this love becomes apparent neither in words nor in slogans but in all her everyday activities, in her plans and in her whole life.

Lusia Kabanova, coordinator
of the Heinrich Boelle Foundation women program

Irina Rilnikova, an editor of the magazine "Woman Plus" met with Aishat Magomedova and asked her to answer several questions.

I.R.: Tell about yourself and your motherland.

Aishat: I am child of after-the-war time, was born in 1944 in Godobery village in Botlikh region of Daghestan. (It is near the Chechen regions where the hostilities took place). We, Godobericy, are a small ethnic nation, consisting of about two and a half thousand men; we have our own language but don't have a written language. We have own traditions and culture.

The mountains make you aim at something greater. When you reach the top of a small mountain, you see a higher one, climb and think that you have reached the highest top - but there is another one behind it. That is why the mountain people always aspire to reach the top in everything, they are strong and enduring. But what is more important, they know that they must help other people. In the mountains a guest is a great respect for a host - the guest have made a difficult and often dangerous way and he, without any questions, must be fed, taken care of and accorded a proper welcome. From my parents and my grandmother I inherited an understanding that the most valuable thing is a man.

Talking about our civilization we talk about respect to a mother, to a woman. My grandmother told me how she was respected, how her shawl was valued. Unfortunately, I cannot say that now we have such respect. I think we have lost the main thing - love to a mother, to a woman. While the main property - a human life - is entrusted to a woman; she is a peace guardian, and traditionally she played a key role in a Daghestan family. But we, Daghestan women, have taken off the shawls ourselves, forgetting our traditions - we wanted to be like European women. And only now we are starting to understand that denying our faith and traditions we loose our mentality and don't become Europeans.

Now it is very difficult for our youth, they have nothing to be guided by - they don't have this profound national basis which our parents and parents of our parents lied in us. My mother already had a soviet thinking: she started to be "changed" - she worked a lot, little devoted herself to me, and I was longing for my grandmother. I remembered her kindness, her stories, her love for life. She never studied at any educational institutions but knew a lot: she told me about woman physiology, suggested me an idea of woman dignity, honor. She could render the first aid which is very important in the mountains. It was she who gave me lessons of life.

At school I first studied Avarsky, then Russian languages. Russian teachers came to us; in very difficult conditions, without textbooks, library they tried to give us knowledge. And it was not lost on us. Almost 40 years have passed, and I always with love and respect remember their names: Titarenco Ludmila Aleksandrovna, Yakunina Maria Alekseevna, Smirnova Nelly Dmitrievna, Ribina Zoya Aleksandrovna. The others' names have been effaced in my memory, but their clear faces have remained. Thanks God I had such teachers and were able to get education.

Daghestan is a small world in the big one. We are a multi-national republic, but we have nothing to share out, there is no war in our Daghestan. And we are deterred not by some new policy but by that original one which is inherited by us from our ancestors, the main point of which is that we must love a man, live and create.

The main aim is to go forward with our own national values. Whatever we managed to preserve helps Daghestan to refrain from international faction. We have never put a question about rupture of diplomatic relations with Russia, about withdrawal from Russian State, and I don't think that somebody could benefit by it. We want Russia to be a powerful flourishing democratic state, but does the state return our affection? If you are looked at not like a man but like a "person of Caucasian nationality", suspected of terrorism, constantly checked - it can't affect a person, after all a man is vulnerable.

But I am not a judge of the other people; I know that first of all you should have your own dignity, then I will respect it in other people. If somebody doesn't like it, for example, he doesn't like that I don't take off my shawl (my traditions demand it), if he considers it a wilderness and openly responds it, it is not my problem but his low level of culture. I am the way I am. Like all others I am a person - a host of Earth. And I don't bear ill will to anybody, as well as I don't bear it to myself. I was taught that a human life, his property and honor are sacred to God and I believe it.

I.R.: Suspicion in relations between different nations has flourished in connection with the acts of terrorism in New-York. A great amount of people died...

Aishat: It seems to me that the amount of victims doesn't matter; the main thing is the fact of their death itself. If we have allowed a death of at least one woman or one child and treated it with indifference - it is awful. I think that many people, like me, now put a question: why didn't I interfere earlier, when I saw the bombing of a maternity hospital in Chechnya? After all for me, as for an accoucheur-gynaecologist, there is nothing worse.

We create our history ourselves. God gave us human will and intellect to create. But we are indifferent. And indifference is also a terrorism. When Chechnya was bombed, a brother was killing his brother. Not only Chechen people but also Russians remained under the bombs. Is it possible that nobody would refuse to carry out an order of destruction of his own house?!

And I think the war won't stop while man has arms in his hands and woman without a murmur sends to the war her child, whom she proudly carries under her heart for nine months, gives birth in the throes, breast-feeds and brings up for many years. The war won't stop while woman keeps silence seeing violence and murders, as if it didn't concern her.

I.R.: But what can be done?

Aishat: First of all, we should learn not to be a slave but to be a man and not to be afraid to express and defend your own opinion under any circumstances. All the people are the same, all of us, in spite of our different opportunities during the life, will get old and die. You shouldn't think that others are cleverer than you and know what to do. You should act yourself.

I.R.: Tell how the idea of establishing a charitable hospital was born and how you managed to bring it about.

Aishat: I am an accoucheur-gynaecologist, for a long time I worked as a hospital director and often used to go to the mountains on urgent calls. I know the level of medical service in our republic - state medical care is not enough, a man cannot always get it in full to a full extent. From the conversations with my colleagues I knew that in many other regions the situation was the same, and women and children were having the hardest time.

A physician suffers almost the same pain as a sick man asking for his help. And then you understand that something should be done. This stimulated a creating of the project of a charitable hospital, though at first there was no such a project, there only was a willing to help people and an understanding of what they needed. A group of like-minded persons (now there are 25 persons) was teamed up and without their help I wouldn't be able to do anything; my colleagues worked and are working very selflessly.

I went to the Ministry of Health with a request to give me an opportunity to work in some building. And we were rendered a building of 1927, which the Ministry was not able to restore as they didn't have necessary funds. Now I consider it a miracle but when you do people good God helps you.

When refugees appeared, without insurance policies, they had nowhere to apply, and we were already able to help them a little. At first we collected our money, the money of our people, relatives, friends, repaired several rooms and started working. At the same time I continued looking for funds: I looked for sponsors, asked for help at the conferences, meetings. People responded - I found understanding on their part. I would like to say that I was always surrounded by kind and responsive people.

Since 1995 4282 women has got an out-patient treatment and about 500 underwent a course of treatment in the hospital. We don't divide our patients according to the nationality; each woman crossing the hospital threshold must get medical help or just food if she is hungry, or shelter if she has nowhere to go. Besides, staying in the hospital is a psychological rehabilitation: if a person doesn't believe in anything we try to help him to overcome the spite. Then we send the women to the center of help to refugees, where they get encouragement through the state programs. Of course, we are not able to help everybody but we do what we can.

The project of the hospital is developed under patronage of the League of mother and child protection of Daghestan; more than 700 women take part in the work of this organization. The main aim of the League is to do, everything they can, lest the rights of mother and child were not violated - from his birth a child has rights to safety of life and development. The right and duty of a woman on the earth is to be a mistress of the house, to bring up a man. A woman-mother must be free and educated because a slave won't bring up a hero. It is my opinion, these are our national traditions. Contrary to a famous myth that a Muslim woman is enslaved, in Islam she is given the leading role: the last word is hers for she brings up a child, the future is in her hands. She is guarded and protected. And this is her colossal freedom. A man has other destiny - he has to take care of a woman, to be bread-winner of a family.

I.R.: But if the main aim of a woman is to be a mistress of the house and of the fireplace, men undertake to solve the state questions...

Aishat: A woman, a wife, may be a companion-in-arms of a man in his activity, creation, because in a good family a man always communicates and consults with his wife. These are women who should make decisions, and men should realize them. I am sure in it and I am not afraid to say that women are not equal to men, they are above them.

As for solving state questions... I visited many countries of the East and of the West, pilgrimaged, became acquainted with different religions and cultures, and I know that there are too many myths in our ideas of each other. Postulates of modern religions, which underlie the state structure of some countries, especially a view on the roles of a man and a woman, are not a doctrine now. Only one firm point remains in all the religions - it is love to a man, since if I love God, I love His creation.

I.R.: And the last, traditional for an interview in our magazine, question - what would you say to all the women if you had an opportunity to address them?

Aishat: What is most important - don't demean yourself, whoever you are.

Always remember that you are responsible for a human life.

Don't be indifferent to the sufferings of other woman.

You shouldn't talk about equal terms with a man, you should be above man, he can do nothing without woman. He cannot give birth - he only destroys and continue to do it if a woman keeps silence.

You are responsible for everything that happens around you. You should fight against use of arms, any arms, because people are killed not only by bombs and nuclear missiles. It is prohibition of using any arms in solving any discrepancies between people that women should demand.

Shout, cry! Then you may be heard. After all, if a dry tree is poured every day, it may sprout.

From Report on the activity of the Charitable hospital for women

Daghestan is the largest mountain republic of the Northern Caucasia, as far as population is concerned. It comprises 10 cities, 23 mountain regions, 8 piedmont regions and 11 regions of the plains.

Population is 2 million 120 thousand people (as per data of 1999).

An extremely unfavourable situation has arisen in Russia and especially in Daghestan in the recent years. The main part of the population, 70% of the total, is living beyond poverty line. The rate of unemployment among youth is 85%, among women in mountain regions - 93%. At present there are no long-term programs aimed at solving the problem of unemployment.

The data from the state report on the population health and epidemiological situation in the Republic of Daghestan testify abrupt worsening of the main demographic setting, starting form 1994-1995:

  • Since 1989 a birth-rate has fallen from 27.4 to 17.7;
  • A death-rate has risen from 6.4 to 7.2;
  • A natural increase of the population has fallen from 21 to 12.5;
  • An infant mortality has increased, especially in the country...

In 1994, understanding the necessity of rendering an assistance to women and children, the League of mother and child protection of the Republic of Daghestan addressed the republican Ministry of Health asking to help them to establish an organization "Charitable hospital for women" for families without means, orphans and refugees. Buildings of a former children polyclinic were allotted.

Charitable hospital for women is intended for rendering medical help to women-refugees from the regions of military conflict, suffering from acts of terrorism or earthquakes on the territory of the Republic of Daghestan, and also for women from indigent levels of population, lacking opportunity to pay for treatment in state medical institutions since they don't have medical insurance.

The hospital has 20 beds. Stationary and out-patient help is rendered here for women of all ages.

Due to help of the sponsor - Benevolence International Foundation (Chicago) - the hospital was entirely equipped by necessary medical equipment and medicines. Women get three meals a day, hospital clothes, bed linen.

The League of mother and child protection (LZM&R) is a non-governmental noncommercial organization established on October 25, 1993.

  • The League renders a feasible medical help to forced migrants and refugees from the territories of military conflicts: for example, about 250 sets for new-born children and 360 packages of children foodstuff "Baby" were prepared and distributed in the cities of Hasavurt and Mahachkala;
  • The League conducts the work aimed at psychological rehabilitation of women and children: psychologists work at the charitable hospital;
  • The League takes measures in protection of motherhood and childhood: there is a Charitable hospital for women; LZM&R participates in regional and international activities dedicated to the problems of motherhood and childhood;
  • The League carries out a cultural educational work among women: in realization of the project "Daghestan - the center of peacemaking" women courses of basic medicine knowledge were opened together with the Union "Women from Don" within the limits. According to the experience, the first people who appear in the places of explosions, fires, earthquakes most often are untrained rescuers volunteers, local inhabitants. That is why it is essential for every person to be able to render first aid before the arrival of the specialists. Three groups of nurses were trained.

The materials were prepared by Irina Rilnikova