Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Allow Me To Introduce You To...

Dr. Sima Samar. Now, some of you may know who she is already. For those who do not, or for those who are want to learn more, this is for you. (H/t to my aunt for sending me a mini biography on her, and to American Girl in Italy for mentioning her recently, too.) And now to the woman featured today:

In 2002, Dr. Samar was named the Deputy Premier in Afghanistan, in charge of issues affecting women. This was a position well deserved as you see:
Although women often served as ministers in cabinets before the Taleban came to power, Dr Samar will be the first woman to occupy such a senior post.

"I was not expecting this position so I've really not prioritised what I'm going to do," she said..

Clinics set up

Dr Samar fled Afghanistan for Pakistan 17 years ago after her husband was arrested during the Russian occupation. He was never heard from again.

She gained a medical degree from Kabul University and developed a passion for women's rights.

She practised medicine in a border refugee camp before opening a hospital for women in 1987.

With initial funding from Church World Service, she began setting up clinics and girls' schools inside Afghanistan, travelling frequently between the two countries.

When the Russians withdrew in 1992, Afghanistan lost its strategic value to the United States.

The US Central Intelligence Agency shut the tap on the $3.3bn it had poured into the rebels' coffers since 1979.

Dangerous role

In all, Dr Samar opened 10 Afghan clinics and four hospitals for women and children, as well as schools in rural Afghanistan for more than 17,000 students.

In Pakistan, she founded a hospital and school for refugee girls.

Literacy programmes established by her organisation were accompanied by distribution of food aid and information on hygiene and family planning.

These were dangerous pursuits under the Taleban regime. But the risks did not deter the doctor.

"I've always been in danger, but I don't mind," she said. "I believe we will die one day so I said let's take the risk and help somebody else."

What an amazing, brave, courageous woman she is. I'm not the only one who thinks so, of course. In 2004, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation was the Profile In Courage Recipient for her work in Afghanistan on behalf of women and girls:
In 2002, Sima Samar became the first women's affairs minister in Afghanistan's post-Taliban interim government. Prior to her appointment, Samar had dedicated her life to the preservation of basic rights for women and girls in Afghanistan. She fled her country in 1984 during the Soviet ocupation and moved to the border town of Quetta, Pakistan, where she founded the Shuhada Organization to support the education and health needs of Afghan women and girls. With dogged persistence and at great personal risk, she kept her schools and clinics open in Afghanistan even during the most repressive days of the Taliban regime, whose laws prohibited the education of girls past the age of eight. When the Taliban fell, Samar returned to Kabul and accepted the post of Minister for Women's Affairs, even as she continued to run her clinics and schools. But her persistent calls for equality and justice attracted the attention of Afghanistan's powerful religious leaders, who still saw no place for women in Afghan public life. She was taunted by male colleagues, and she began to receive thinly veiled death threats from Islamic conservatives hoping to silence her. She was ultimately forced to step down from her cabinet post, which was left unfilled. She subsequently was offered a non-cabinet position chairing the Independent Afghanistan Human Rights Commission, a position she still holds.

Oh, but the accolades don't stop there. In 2006, Forbes ranked her as the 28th Most Powerful Woman in the World for her work as the Chair of the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission, especially on behalf of women and girls:
Samar has one of the toughest jobs in the world—monitoring rights abuses in an often-unfriendly land. She has long pursued these aims, sometimes undercover during the iron grip of the Taliban's rule. After the fundamentalists fell, Samar was named to high government posts and established the Ministry of Women's Affairs. She is also the founder and director of the Shuhada Organization, which oversees health, education and economic projects for women and girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At a speech at Brown University in May, Samar cautioned: "Women's rights and human rights will not be real unless there is enough security and law enforcement in the country." (—Tatiana Serafin)

I don't know about you, but she's sounding a whole lot like Hillary Rodham Clinton to me. Add to that being named one of Ms. Magazine's Women of the Year in 2003 (you know, before Ms. Magazine declared someone like Obama a "feminist" and was still a pro-women resource), and these are just a very few of the numerous awards and prizes Dr. Samar has received for her work.

But there is one award she did not receive, despite supposition that she would. And you know what that award was the Nobel Peace Prize:
Commission spokesman Nader Nadiri told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that Samar is among the top contenders, but the winner won’t be announced until October 9.

Samar, 52, is a doctor and ran a clinic for fellow Afghan refugees in neighboring Pakistan during the 1980s and 1990s before becoming a cabinet minister in President Hamid Karzai’s interim cabinet in December 2001.

Samar has headed the Afghan rights commission since it was founded seven years ago. In 2005 she was appointed the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Sudan.

After all Dr. Samar has done in her life, after all the women, girls, and refugees she has helped through her work, after her continued fight for human rights, after the dangers she has faced, and faces still, she lost to someone who has done little more than make speeches. Who failed to make any hard decisions while in the IL Senate. Who did blessed little in the US Senate but campaign for a higher office. And who has done more talking than action in his new position. Yes, rather than take a stand, he has renewed policies we decried when they were instituted by President Bush; made promises he doesn't keep; continues to put our troops in harm's way for lack of decisions on recommendations made by the "generals on the ground," and spent more time getting his face on tv (kicking off Mon. Night Football??), having parties, and going on vacation. Yeah, I can see how all of that has led to World Peace.

I used to have a lot of respect for the Nobel Peace Prize. But now? Not so much...


Anonymous said...

How ANYONE can justify the Nobel Peace Prize being given to O, in light of the amazing work Dr. Samar has actually DONE, as opposed to thinking about doing, is beyond me. And there are so many more like her who are deserving of receiving acknowledgment. The NPP no longer has any meaning or relevance for me; it's become entirely political. And you KNOW that O was completely aware that he had been nominated, so his humble routine is just a pile of crap.

On another note, my brother in Australia just sent me a link to an article in the Washington Post:

In India, New Seat of Power for Women - Prospective Brides Demand Sought-After Commodity: A Toilet


Ya gotta love it!!

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Hey, SF -

I couldn't agree more. I am sure he knew abt it, and hell yes, there are MANY more deserving people. Dr. Samar is but one, but goddess knows, she is far more deserving than Obama can ever hope to be.

And the head of the NPP committee was defending their choice: he head of the Nobel Peace Prize committee has defended its controversial decision to give the award to US President Barack Obama, saying his work so far justifies the honour.

"He could have also had it too late," Thorbjoern Jagland told reporters.

"Can someone tell me who did more than him this year? It is difficult to name a winner of the peace prize who is more in line with Alfred Nobel's will." (http://www.3aw.com.au/blogs/blog-with-derryn-hinch/nobel-committee-head-defends-obama-peace-prize/20091012-gtn7.html)

Well, those are some pretty damn low standards. I might add, a bit sexist, if you ask me. Dr. Samar has only been working for YEARS on behalf of women, refugees, and children, so yeah, Obama has done SO much more in the first 11 freakin' days of his presidency - it took a lot of energy to throw all of those parties, after all.

Will these people EVER get tired of propping him up??

ROTFLMAO over the article your brother sent!! Thanks for that!

Anonymous said...

"...his work so far justifies the honour."

What work????

"He could have also had it too late."

Too late for what???

"Can someone tell me who did more than him this year?"

Can someone tell ME who did LESS than him this year???

I can't help but wonder what the head of the NPP committee received for his decision. He had to have received some benefit. Either that, or he's just plain stupid. Or both.

It's enough to drive me to drink.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

You summed it up beautifully, SF. I was wondering WTH he was talking abt, too, with the "too late" business. Are they hoping it will help more with the upcoming elections, perhaps? That's all I can figure.

Again, to put Obama in the same group as, e.g., the Dalai Lama, or MLK, Jr., after he had been in office 11 days is insane - literally...

Yeah, I might have to have an extra cappuccino this morning...

Stray Yellar Dawg? said...

Just found this write up and linked it to my own blog entry... from a few days ago. On Sima Simar and Piedad Cordoba.

Both women were, IMO, unjustly passed over to award the Nobel to "The One." But that's just me.... a little ol' missus.

Good write up, Rev!


Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Hey, thanks, Syd! I appreciate the compliment, and the link!

I hear ya - I can't help but wonder why these women who have done so much continue to be passed over, but I think we both know why...

Thanks for coming by!