Sima Samar (2012 Laureate)

Country: Afghanistan

Current status: Death threats

Dr Sima Samar has worked tirelessly towards achieving sustainable peace in Afghanistan through diversified human rights work, from education and healthcare to women’s rights. She established several institutions that have supported and empowered the oppressed and the poor, such as Shuhada Organisation and Clinic in neighbouring Pakistan. For 15 years, she served as the Chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, persisting in her fight for justice and accountability despite an increasingly insecure environment for human rights defenders. In recent months, human rights defenders have been under immense threats with an increase in attacks using magnetic improvised explosive devices. Because of her outspoken advocacy, Dr Samar is paying a heavy price on a personal level, as she faces numerous and constant death threats. Nevertheless, she perseveres in her fight for the realisation of justice and human rights.

  • 1979: After the communist revolution, Dr Samar’s husband was arrested and never heard from again. Some years later, she fled to nearby Pakistan with her son.
  • 1989: Dr Samar established the Shuhada Organisation and Shuhada Clinic in Quetta, Pakistan, dedicated to providing health care to Afghan refugees and shelter for women in vulnerable situations.
  • 2001: After a 17-year-long exile in Pakistan, she returned to Afghanistan to take a cabinet position.
  • December 22, 2001 – June 22, 2002: Dr Samar served as the Deputy Chair and Minister of Women’s Affairs, only one of two women in the Interim Administration of Afghanistan. Throughout her mandate, she was targeted with death threats but always refused to leave the country.
  • 2004: She was appointed chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), responsible for holding human rights violators accountable. This commitment was also followed by increasing death threats.
  • 2005 – 2009: Dr Samar served as the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan.
  • July 17, 2019: Dr Samar was appointed as the President’s Special Envoy and State Minister for Human Rights and International Affairs, for which she left her position at the AIHRC.
  • December 2019: She was appointed as a member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement.
  • June 27, 2020: Two of Dr Samar’s former AIHRC colleagues were killed as part of intensifying attacks against human rights workers in the country.
  • December 20, 2020: She was dismissed from her position and the whole Ministry for Human Rights and International Affairs was dissolved.

Protection and Advocacy

March 4, 2021: The Right Livelihood Foundation organised a high-level event on the impact of feminist foreign policies on the lives of WHRDs, in which Sima Samar shared her expertise and personal experience.

January 2021: The Right Livelihood Foundation provided Sima Samar with a holistic Protection Program, carried out by the organisation Open Briefing.

July 13, 2020: The Right Livelihood Foundation delivered a statement on ensuring accountability for women and girls in humanitarian conflicts, focused on Afghanistan, at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council.

July 3, 2020: The Right Livelihood Foundation interviewed Sima Samar on the impact of COVID19 on Afghanistan in the framework of the project COVID-19 and Human Rights.

July 2019: Sima Samar delivered a video statement during the Universal Periodic Review of Afghanistan at the 41st session of the Human Rights Council.

March 2019: Sima Samar attended the 40th session of the Human Rights Council to participate in the Right Livelihood Foundation’s side event on Women Human Rights Defenders.