Sima Samar with the Little Girls of Aryana High School
  • Sima Samar with the Little Girls of Aryana High School
  • Sima Samar, the chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission
  • The little girls became literate women of Taliban time

The big wooden gate opened, hundreds of little girls and mature women dressed in light blue Kamiz and white Shalwar and veil entered with their loud screams and joy. The classes were filled with the dust of chalks, the tone of Persian and Pashto words, and the murmur tone of girls. The little girls became literate women of war time, under the Taliban Regime by a woman’s advocacy; Dr. Sima Samar.

Samar is the chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. She was born in 1957 in a mountain-locked area “Jaqhoori” district of Ghazni province. She has grown up and gone to school, while discrimination of ethnicities scattered every corner of the country, and little girls and boys were living in gender discrimination sphere. Samar was growing up thinking of eliminating differences between people, and giving space for women to grow freely.

Samar with the glitters in her eyes with the glimpse of going back to the walls of the clay-made class of her school says, “I started very early, when I was in seven grades in the school that I will fight against the discrimination.” As a woman of war-torn Afghanistan in 1960s, she promised to fight for justice. Samar fought for her hope as she says with her tone-waved sound, “The discrimination in the school and also in the family as girl pushed me to resist till now.” Samar believes in the empowerment of women, women’s resistance against discrimination, and women’s self-determination in defense of their rights. Samar received her medical degree in 1982 from Kabul University and practiced her profession as medicine at a governmental hospital in Kabul (

Later, the whispers of Burqa, the Taliban Regime, and Madrassa were started. Women were separated from education and the civil war broke over Kabul. Humans were hunting humans; neighbors’ hearts, heads, and bodies were torn out into blood and flesh. The wounded land of Afghanistan escorted people for nostalgia. People scattered around the world. Some of this people crossed borders and reached to Pakistan, and they remained in the refugee camp with miseries and despairs. Among thousands of Afghan people, Samar was one of those refugee women, who left the unstable situation, altered the situation for us as a doctor.

Samar started serving women and children by providing health care facilities. She established the Shuhada Organization and Clinic in Quetta in 1989 ( It was an open space for dedicated women to rise up from the dusty floors and to walk toward the training center of health care and education.

As she says, “I believe education is the key to empower women. And I started the school in Quetta because there was no school for Afghan girls. I took the risk and decided to do what I was thinking is the right thing to do.” Since the Taliban banned all the scientific books, burnt the schools into ashes, slaughtered the scholars and students, strived for eliminating women’s education, Samar knew she had no choice but to take action. Thus, she believes in the words, “There are no impossible things in this world,” Samar knew that living under the Taliban’s shadows, women could get education.

Samar started believing that, “education is a key to change the mentality of the people, and also to be honest with the people, try to help the poor, and give them skills to stand on their feet.” Samar established her first ever school for girls in a rural area of Quetta, under name Aryana Girls High School in 1989. She articulates that the Women in Afghanistan are suffering from discrimination due to lack of education and culture. She also utters that “religion is misused in order to suppress the women. Samar utters that Burqa is neither religious sign nor culture; it is “a question of choice.” She believes that women should not be ignored from their basic human rights, which is the right to choose, she declares it with her attentive mind and voice.

With an anxious tone, I asked her about her choices. As an Afghan woman, I know that every woman has been given specific choices by the society, but Samar says with the nature of her wide smile and freshness that, “As a woman, I do everything as I am interested to do house chores, and do the rest of the work that I can do.” She believes that Afghan women should have self confidence on their personality, and then empower themselves with life-struggles and then act.

Alike every other Afghan refugees, Samar was also returned back to homeland after September 11, 2001. She acted as human rights advocate and former deputy premier in the acting government of Hamid Karzai (

Samar defines that, “My story is a story of long struggle, and it was not given by a rich family or relative.” Samar knows her life is so much different from those women around her, but she wants every Afghan woman to act like her, she urges, “We should have an objective for ourselves.” Thus, Samar is the role model of present Afghan women. Samar is so hopeful for the youths’ education, observation, liberation, and hard working. Because she knows that a role model is needed for Afghan society, “A good example plays a very positive role in the society.”

I could only imagine that she writes these words with the essence of belonging to the world of peace, to the universe of Afghanistan, and to womanhood of nature. The wind of southern Afghan land unfolded her silvered-white hairs beneath her scarf when she says, “I am a women and try to tell everyone that women are able to do the things that we want to do.”

Samar’s activism is based on having her own objectives and making her own choices: “My own decision made me [the person] I am right now.”

She smiles and fills with joy of both soreness of pain and sweetness of her activism for a change in the little girls’ lives.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Voices of Our Future 2012 Assignment: Profiles.


The more dangerous Burka is that which takes hold of the consciences of women. Samar is helping girls, in the future will be women, get freedom from internal burqas through education. Then they will be ready to lead changes in society for the elimination of all types of burkas and prisons made ​​of cloth, unjust laws, punishments, which prevent the participation of women with full rights and total equity.

One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion ~ Simone de Beauvoir

Thank you for your thought provoking comment. I think Burka is not dangerous, and it can not limit or hold women's consciences. It is a human thing, "made of cloth," and Afghan women have seen different ways of living through the slits of Burka. Therefore, it leads us, Afghan women of education, toward a world free from old cultures, where we will name new changes as our cultures. Enshallah, Thanks, Bests, Parwana Fayyaz "In change, we believe."

Thank you for your hopeful words, I am happy that you are following my blog, it is an honor for me. I would love to have your comments on the pieces of my writings. Thanks, Bests, Parwana Fayyaz "In change, we believe."

Thank you for your hopeful words, I am happy that you are following my blog, it is an honor for me. I would love to have your comments on the pieces of my writings. Thanks, Bests, Parwana Fayyaz "In change, we believe."

Thank you so much for sharing her story with us. The women who continue to struggle for the rights of women in Afghanistan have a long battle to go, but I truly believe they will get there.

Keep up the good work!


"Tell me then, what will you do with your one wild, sweet, and precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Thank you so much, as I was so nervous about the first Module of our VOF program. But it was a successful one, I got to learn and be in contact with Ms. Samar, which I always wanted to do it. Thanks, Parwana Fayyaz

It's wonderful to see that women leaders of Ms. Samar's generation are still active and paving the way for the next generation of young women! And I am so glad that you were able to share her work with us.

Peace, Mari

Dear Parwana, Thanks so much for this great profile of Ms. Samar. The way you use language is poetic. I felt like I really saw her and felt her spirit through your words. Wonderful!



Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story about Dr. Sima Samar. You are sharing an important message about the education of women in your country. I look forward to reading more of your work.

Sincerely, Lisa Teberg

Parwana dear, your profiling of the work that Samar does is great. I have one question though. In her profile,Samar says that wearing the Burka is not a question of religion or culture but about choice, whose choice? Forgive my ignorance but in Egypt I got the impression that those girls who did not wear the headscarf or burka only did so because they came from families where they were allowed to make that choice, but there were others who wore it, always complained about how inconvenient it was in the heat but could not do anything about it because it was expected of them. Can you explain this for me, if you wish?

Dear MaDube: I might not purposefully deny of answering your question, but I can answer it confidently as well; if I have gotten your question clearly. You can find my this article much more like my answer on Hijab or Veil, a form of Burka. However, I personally believe that in a certain age families have responsibilities toward their children. Every parents have to do their duty toward their children, so in our case the best way to present daughters in a very womanhood way, it is a girl under Hijab or a woman under Burka. It goes on till a certain age, when you have choice to wear or not wear, luckily if you get a better future with comfortable society. However, there are different women of different thoughts, believes, manners, and choices. So there might be a woman as you mentioned that Burka or Hijab might be "how inconvenient it was in the heat." For some, it is just a light cloth on our body: peace giving, confident rising, and sign of womanhood. But for others, it might be a sign for their religion, Islamic culture. But for me it is much more like a heritage and habit given by my mother, which is peace giving rather than showing me Muslim, I believe so. My Hijab is way of my feminism. Thanks Parwana Fayyaz

I am so impressed that you were able to interview this woman! She is clearly a life-long activist with a deep commitment to improving the lives of girls and young women in Afghanistan. Through your work here I got to know an inspiring leader, and feel better for it. Thank you for that Parwana. Have you shared this article with her? I am sure she would be proud of your work.

Well done! Warm wishes for the New Year ahead, Scott

Scott Beck

Thank you so much for your note. I, myself, have learnt so much by her simple but real words about women's education, empowerment, and change for Afghanistan. She has always been my inspiration for becoming like her, but World Pulse has given me a chance to talk to her and have her time for an interview. I did share with her, but I have not got response from her yet. I am still waiting for her response. I am sure she would be happy because I was one of those little girls in her small school and have become a literate woman and a Voice of Our Future correspondents. Thanks and Happy New Year once again Parwana Fayyaz