Dr. Sima Samar, an Afghan medical doctor who ignored death threats and defied the Taliban to provide the girls and women of her country with access to health care and education, will speak at UMass Dartmouth on Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. The event will be held in the Main Auditorium in the Campus Center and is free and open to the public.
“In standing up to the ruthless Taliban regime in defense of women and girls, Dr. Simar has set a powerful and inspirational example of courage for all of us,’’ said UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack. “The University is honored to have this brave and selfless international heroine sharing her message with us, and we are pleased to share the experience with the greater community.’’
“Dr. Samar speaks of today's Afghanistan with truth, dignity, pain, and love,’’ said Dr. Robin Robinson, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at UMass Dartmouth. “Her allegiance is to the people -- especially women and girls -- who have suffered and still suffer in terrible ways from attacks on their human rights, from forces inside and outside her country. With humility and grace, she draws her audience into her unwavering call for the eyes of the world to look at these truths without blinking, and to act.”
While Sima Samar is a physically unimposing woman she is a larger than life figure who comes to us from a land where Americans are still fighting...and dying,’’ said Dr. Bryan Glyn Williams, who has travelled extensively in Afghanistan. “But Dr. Samar challenged the brutal mullahs of the Taliban long before the Americans arrived in her homeland. Anyone whose imagination was stirred by the liberation of Afghanistan owes it to themselves to come hear this fighter speak of her land, her people, and her on-going struggle to free the women of Afghanistan.”
From 1994 to 2001, when the Taliban ruled, Dr. Samar was forced to operate in a covert manner as her personal safety was constantly at risk.
Following the Taliban’s fall in 2001, Dr. Samar became the first woman to hold a cabinet-level position in Afghanistan when she was named Minister of Women’s Affairs. She was later forced to step down after her country’s Supreme Court determined that she was unfit to serve due to her opposition to the Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic code. Later, Dr. Samar was named chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, a position she accepted and still holds.
In 1989, Dr. Samar established the non-profit Shuhada Organization, which has since opened four hospitals, ten health clinics, and many schools to serve girls and women throughout Afghanistan.
Dr. Samar was the 2004 winner of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.
Dr. Samar’s appearance at UMass Dartmouth is the second University Colloquium this year, following an October presentation by poet and author Maya Angelou. The colloquia, sponsored by the Office of Chancellor, are part of a larger effort to bring global thought leaders to campus and share the University’s intellectual activity with the community.