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 (simasamar.com).
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 (simasamar.com). 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 (simasamar.com).
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.Voices of Our Future 2012 Assignment: Profiles