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Dr. Sima Samar,  Chairwoman, Afghanistan Independent Rights Commission                                                                   

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 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.

When Sima Samar was born in Jaghori, Ghazni, Afghanistan in 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 from Kabul University, a career chosen based on her desire to make a positive difference in her country. Yet her work to effect positive change in Afghanistan was performed for many years from Pakistan, where she fled after her husband was arrested during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. He was one of more than 500 educated people rounded up one night in 1984, never to be heard from again.

During her 17 years in Pakistan she became a leader for educating Afghan women and girls. 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 teach 800 students.

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 and also as the United Nations special envoy to Darfur, Sudan.

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.

In August 10th 2005, due to her courageous and untiring work for the cause of Human Rights in the national and international arena, she was appointed as the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights for Sudan  by the commission of human rights of the United Nation.

More information about Dr. Samar can be found in the following articles:

http://www.msmagazine.com/winter2009/Afghanistan.asp.