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Sima Samar

Human Rights Advocate
 Sima Samar

Samar was born in Jaghori, Ghazni, Afghanistan, on 4 February 1957.

She obtained her degree in medicine in February 1982 from Kabul University, the first Hazara woman to do so. She practiced medicine at a government hospital in Kabul, but after a few months was forced to flee for her safety to her native Jaghoori, where she provided medical treatment to patients throughout the remote areas of central Afghanistan.

In 1984, the communist regime arrested her husband, and Samar and her young son fled to the safety of nearby Pakistan. She then worked as a doctor at the refugee branch of the Mission Hospital. Distressed by the total lack of health care facilities for Afghan refugee women, she established in 1989 the Shuhada Organization and Shuhada Clinic in Quetta, Pakistan. The Shuhada Organization was dedicated to the provision of health care to Afghan women and girls, training of medical staff and to education. In the following years further branches of the clinic/hospital were opened throughout Afghanistan.

After living in refuge for over a decade, Samar returned to Afghanistan in 2002 to assume a cabinet post in the Afghan Transitional Administration led by Hamid Karzai. In the interim government, she served as Deputy President and then as Minister for Women's Affairs. She was forced into resignation from her post after she was threatened with death and harassed for questioning conservative Islamic laws, especiallysharia law, during an interview in Canada with a Persian-language newspaper. During the 2003 Loya Jirga, several religious conservatives took out an ad in a local newspaper calling Samar the Salman Rushdie of Afghanistan.

She currently heads the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

She is one of the 4 main subjects in Sally Armstrong's 2004 documentary (Daughters of Afghanistan). In the documentary, Sima Samar's work as the Minister of Women's Affairs and her subsequent fall from power is shown.

Dr. Samar publicly refuses to accept that women must be kept in purdah (secluded from the public) and speaks out against the wearing of the burqa (head-to-foot wrap), which was enforced first by the fundamentalist mujahideen and then by the Taliban. She also has drawn attention to the fact that many women in Afghanistan suffer from osteomalacia, a softening of the bones, due to an inadequate diet. Wearing the burqa reduces exposure to sunlight and aggravates the situation for women suffering from osteomalacia.


Events with this presenter

International Speaker Series (2012)

The Question of Afghanistan

Sima Samar

The Question of AfghanistanAfghan human rights pioneer and Nobel Peace prize nominee Sima Samar has spent her life breaking barriers. The first Hazara woman to obtain a medical degree from Kabul University and an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, Dr. Samar was Deputy President of Afghanistan and the country’s first Minister for Women's Affairs. Read More ››

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