DR. SIMA SAMAR
Born in Jaghori, Ghazni in Afghanistan on 3rd February 1957, Dr Sima Samar seemed to have overwhelming odds stacked against her, as both a woman and as a Hazara, one of the most persecuted minorities in the country. Yet it’s exactly these circumstances that caused her to put both her life and liberty at risk, as she continually strived to be a voice for the disenfranchised.
She obtained her medical degree in 1982 from Kabul University, after choosing a career based on her desire to make a positive difference in her country. Life though has sudden twists. Dr Sima was forced to flee to Pakistan in 1979 after the invading Russian army arrested her husband and 500 other people, many of whom were never heard from again.
During her 17 years of exile in Pakistan she became a leader for educating Afghan women and girls. Dr.Sima founded The Shuhada Organization, which now operates 55 schools for girls and boys in Afghanistan and 3 schools for Afghan refugees in Quetta, Pakistan. During the Taliban regime, Shuhada’s schools in Central Afghanistan were among the few academic girls’ primary schools; the organization’s girls’ high schools were the only high schools that girls were able to attend in the country. The Shuhada Organization also ran underground home school classes for girls in Kabul. Following the collapse of the Taliban, these home school classes became the basis for two above ground schools for girls that now cater to and teach 800 students.
Dr. Samar is currently the Chairperson of the Independent Afghanistan Human Rights Commission. A position, from which she oversees the conduct of human rights education programs across Afghanistan, the implementation of a nationwide women’s rights education program, and monitoring and investigation of human rights abuses across the country. Dr. Samar convened the Commission, which is the first Human Rights Commission in Afghanistan’s history.
From December 22, 2001 until June 22, 2002, Dr. Sima Samar served as the Deputy Chair and Minister of Women’s Affairs for the Interim Administration of Afghanistan. Dr. Samar was one of only two women cabinet ministers in the Interim Administration of Afghanistan’s government.
During this Administration, Sima established the first-ever Afghanistan Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Among other accomplishments, the Ministry won the right of women government employees to return to their jobs and to keep their seniority, oversaw the re-entry of girls to schools, launched a women’s rights legal department, and opened a school for married girls offering tailoring, literacy, and embroidery courses at the Ministry’s headquarters.
She has been recognized for her leadership and courage by dozens of human and women’s rights organizations globally, and continues her work in Afghanistan. Due to her courageous and un-tiring work for the cause of Human Rights in the national and international arena, she was appointed to serve as the United Nations special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan from August 2005 till June 2009.
Dr.Sima Samar is an incredibly courageous Afghan woman has paid a heavy price for her commitment on a personal level. Yet despite the difficulties she is happy with the work she does. She has said in the past that her work may be only a drop in the ocean, but at least she feels that that drop is something positive since it has helped save the lives of countless women and girls whose medical problems would otherwise have been ignored and their eventual deaths gone unnoticed.