Dr. Sima Samar Biography
When Sima Samar was born in Jaghori, Ghazni, Afghanistanon 3rd February 1957, she seemed to have the 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 has continually striven to be a voice for the disenfranchised.
Sima received a medical degree in 1982 fromKabulUniversity, a career chosen based on her desire to make a positive difference in her country. Yet her work to effect positive change inAfghanistanwas performed for many years fromPakistan, where she fled after her husband was arrested during the Russian invasion ofAfghanistan. He was one of more than 500 educated people rounded up one night in 1979, never to be heard from again.
During her 17 years inPakistanshe became a leader for educating Afghan women and girls. Sima founded The Shuhada Organization, which now operates 55 schools for girls and boys inAfghanistanand 3 schools for Afghan refugees inQuetta,Pakistan. During the Taliban regime, Shuhada’s schools inCentral Afghanistanwere 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 inKabul. Following the collapse of the Taliban, these home school classes became the basis for two above ground schools for girls that now teach 800 students.
Dr. Samar is currently the Chairwoman of the Independent Afghanistan Human Rights Commission. In this position, she oversees the conduct of human rights education programs acrossAfghanistan, 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 inAfghanistan’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. She has also served as the United Nations special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan from August 2005 till June 2009.
Sima 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.
Numerous international human rights and women’s rights organizations have recognized Dr. Samar for her leadership, her awards and honors include;
The 1994 Community Leadership Award from Roman Magsaysay Award Foundation, the Philippines;
1995 Global Leader for Tomorrow, World Economic Forum Swiss, 1998
100 Heroines Award New York, U.S.A,
2001 Paul Gruniger Human Rights Award, Paul Gruniger Foundation, Switzerland,
Voices of Courage Award, Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, New York, June 2001;
John Humphrey Freedom Award, Rights and Democracy, Canada December 2001;
Women of the Year on behalf of Afghan Women, Ms. Magazine, USA December 2001;
Women of the Month, Toronto, Canada, December 2001;
Best Social Worker Award, Mailo Trust Foundation, Quetta, Pakistan March 2001;
International Human Rights Award, International Human Rights Law Group Washington, DC April 2002;
Freedom Award, Women’s Association for Freedom and Democracy, Barcelona July 2002;
Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Award, New York October 2002;
Silver Banner Award, Tuscany Italy November 2002,
Women for Peace Award, By: Together for Peace foundation, Rome Italy November 2002,
Predita Houston Award, Washington DC June 2003; Women of the Year Washington DC, December 2003;
John F Kennedy’s Profile in Courage award May 2004, Boston USA;
Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights June 2004 Washington USA,
Paul Schiller Stiftung Award October 2004,
Doctor of Laws (hon.) University of Alberta, Canada November 2004,
Doctor of Human Letters (hon.) Brown University, Rhode Island USA May 2005.
In August 10th 2005, due to her courageous and un-tiring work for the cause of Human Rights in the national and international arena, she has been appointed as the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Situation of Human Rights for Sudan by the commission of human rights of the United Nation and has traveled there and submitted her report on the situation, progress and challenges of human rights to the United Nation’s General assembly October 2005. Ranked by Forbes magazine amongst 100 Most Powerful Women (74th) 2004, (28th) 2006, (92nd) 2007,
Best Civilian Officer Award, Decree signed by President of France, July 14th 2006,
Global Women’s Rights Award, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, USA May 2007.
Ypres Peace Prize, November 2008, Belgium,
2008 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award, December 2008, Taiwan(province of China),
Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award by Advocates for Human Rights, June 2009 Minneapolis, USA,
Order of Canada, July 1st Canada 2009,
Politikens Freedom Prize, September 2009, Copenhagen, Denmark,
Doctor of Laws (hon.) University of Carleton, Canada, July 2010.
Dutch Geuzen Medal March 2011, The Netherlands,
Tipperary Peace Prize, June 2011, Ireland.
Stephen J. Solarz Award for Commitment to Peace, Justice and Security, By International Crisis Group, December 2011, New York.
Previous prizes which have won by Dr Sima Samar and her work at Shuhada Organization has been involved;
100000 USD Hilton Prize is received 2009
The Roman Magsaysay Award for community leadership, Manila Philippines 1994, 25000 USD.
John Humphrey Freedom Award, Rights and Democracy, Canada 2001, 25000 USD.
Paul Gruniger Human Rights Award. Paul Gruniger Foundation 2002, Switzerland. 50000 Swiss Franks
Perdita Huston Award, Washington DC, 2003. 10,000 USD
Paul Shiller Stiftung, Switzerland 2004, 30000 Swiss Franks.
Jonathan Mann Award for Health and Human rights. Washington DC 2004. 20000 USD.
Democracy and Human rights Award, Taipi Taiwan(province of China).2008. 100,000 USD.
Y pres Peace Award. Belgium 2008, 25000 Euro.
Freedom award Copenhagen 2009. 20000USD.
Feminist Majority Women of the year award, 2007.
The most of the award money has been spend on the projects for the neediest people for different program. But the Taiwan (province of China), Belgium and Denmark prizes have been invested on construction of a training Hall in Bamyan province. It was inaugurated last year in October 2010; the facilities income will be spent specifically for the Orphanages which runs by Shuhada Organization. This way we were able to invest the money in a place to create a job opportunity for few people to work there and also facility for training, which mostly be used by the women’s. The income will be covered part of the cost for the children who lives at Shuhada Orphanages.