The eyes behind the burka - Captain Leos Rejmont, a Czech doctor in Afghanistan

Leos Rejmont

Leos Rejmont is a doctor serving in the Czech Army. When the Czech Republic decided to send a field hospital to Afghanistan earlier this year as part of the ISAF mission to guarantee security in and around Kabul, he volunteered to take part. After five months with the 6th Field Hospital in Afghanistan, Leos Rejmont is now back home in Prague. The Czech-run hospital is to remain up and running till the end of the year, and then a smaller group of Czech doctors will continue to work as part of a 20-strong international medical team. The Czech medical staff have gained a good reputation in Afghanistan, both among Afghans and colleagues in international peace-keeping forces. Here Dr Rejmont remembers how the hospital gradually won the confidence of local people, and Afghan women in particular.

"When we had our regular surgeries it happened several times that a woman patient would come to see me after waiting in line for many hours, and would tell me - as an eye specialist - that she was having trouble with her eyes. But the thing is that women in Afghanistan always wear a veil - or "burka". You can only see their eyes through the grid in front of them. I asked her to remove the burka so I could examine her. She said no, and although she'd been waiting for three hours, she went away again without being seen. This used to happen quite often when we first started, but I see it as one of our successes that while we were in Kabul, women who came to our surgery, began to take off their burka and let us examine them. For an Afghan woman, to do this is something intimate. A grown woman will never leave the house with her face uncovered. So I think that the fact that they overcame these reservations and allowed us to look into their faces showed that we'd managed to achieve a level of mutual respect, on the basis that they knew we could help them, and I think that this was a great success for our doctors and for all the staff of the 6th Field Hospital."