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Afghan Women's Rights Activist Brings Message to Maine
03/18/2014   Reported By: Tom Porter

A leading campaigner for human rights and the empowerment of women in Afghanistan is sharing experiences with Maine audiences today. Dr. Sima Samar is on a three-day visit here as part a lecture series hosted by the University of Maine School of Law, where she's giving a talk tonight on "Women's Rights in Afghanistan." Tom Porter reports.

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Afghan Women's Rights Activist Brings Message to M
Originally Aired: 3/18/2014 5:30 PM

Dr. Sima Simar 1

Dr. Sima Samar, with moderator Bill Nemitz, speaks to students at Deering High School in Portland

Dr. Samar began the day at Deering High School in Portland, addressing hundreds of area students. Her message was simple:

"I think one thing that I would like to ask, or suggest to you, is please use the opportunity that you have and educate yourself," Samar told the students, "not only reading the subject of your class at school, but do read what's going on the world."

"Today I learned so much that I can't even count - there was a lot, but I mostly learned that if you believe in yourself you can do whatever you want," says Aubine Ntibandetse, who is originally from Burundi but is now a Deering High junior. She was among the four students who shared stage with Dr. Samar and got the opportunity to ask her questions.

Sophomore Maryan Issack was inspired by Dr Samar's personal courage. "She was threatened for the work she did for women's rights in Afghanistan, due to men opposing to what she does," Issack says. "So her being persistent was a like a key, and it inspired me."

Right Livelihood Award 2012 -  Stockholm 2012 Photo: Wolfgang SchmidtSima Samar (left) - a medical doctor by training - has devoted much of her life to advancing human rights, especially those of women, in her home country. Immediately after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 she served as Afghanistan's first minister of women's affairs for two years, and is now chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

Through the Shuhada Organization that she founded, Samar has been instrumental in setting up dozens of schools across Afghanistan, as well a number of health clinics and hospitals. Dr. Samar says she's proud of the progress made in Afghanistan on human rights over the last decade - despite the ongoing war.

And, with presidential elections coming next month, Samar says she's optimistic about the country's future.

Dr. Sima Samar is the chair of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, and recipient of a Profiles in Courage award in 2004. Dr. Samar is giving a talk at 7 p.m. tonight at the University of Maine School of Law in Portland.

Photos: Top, Tom Porter.  Bottom photo: Wolfgang Schmidt, courtesy of Dr. Sima Samar.


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