Dr. Sima Samar is an internationally celebrated advocate for human and women’s rights in Afghanistan.
On being selected as an Allard Prize Finalist, Dr. Samar said:
“It is of course a pleasure and honour for me to be on the short list for the Allard Prize. In fact, it is the recognition of my struggle in a country like Afghanistan; recognition of the women who survive watching the loss of their loved ones and the destruction of their property and country. It gives me courage to continue the struggle and also provides security, as my life is in danger daily.”
Since 2002, Dr. Samar has served as the Chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). In her role, Dr. Samar has worked to raise global awareness about the detrimental impacts of corruption on the promotion and protection of Afghan human and women’s rights. In a recent report, the AIHRC discovered that of the 2,400 cases of violence against women referred to the justice system only 400 were administered. In drawing international attention to such issues, Dr. Samar has argued persuasively for the much needed political will, judicial reforms and rule of law to stamp out corruption in her country.
She has also successfully challenged the international community to recognize that the mistreatment of Afghan women and children is a matter of basic human rights, and can no longer be tolerated.
One of only a few Hazara women to earn a medical degree from Kabul University, Dr. Samar embarked on her career out of a 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 in 1984 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 1979, never to be heard from again.
During her 17 years in Pakistan, Dr. Samar became a leader for educating Afghan women and girls. She founded the Shuhada Organization, which now operates 115 schools for girls and boys in Afghanistan and three 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. Shuhada also runs four hospitals and 15 clinics in Afghanistan and in Pakistan for refugees.
Dr. Samar returned to Afghanistan in 2002 to serve as Deputy President and later as Minister for Women’s Affairs in the Afghan Intrim Administration led by Hamid Karzai. She was forced to resign her post following death threats and harassment for comments she made about conservative Islamic laws during a media interview in Canada.
Learn more about the Allard Prize for International Integrity here.