PORTLAND, Maine — Dr. Sima Samar, chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights
Commission, will speak with Deering High School students about her work 8-10:30 a.m. March 18, at the school.
About 20 student leaders will join Dr. Samar from 8 to 9 a.m. in the Deering library for a breakfast reception and discussion about her oversight of human rights education in Afghanistan, implementation of a nationwide women’s rights education program and investigation of human rights abuses in the country.
At 9:30 a.m., Portland Mayor Michael Brennan will present Dr. Samar with a key to the city at an assembly in the Deering auditorium. Bill Nemitz, a columnist for the Portland Press Herald, will join Deering students in leading a conversation with Dr. Samar.
Deering teachers are planning curriculum projects throughout the spring on the theme of “Education and Healthcare: Tools for Social Justice.” As a follow-up to Dr. Samar’s visit, students will learn about how they can take action on those issues from an international perspective during a panel discussion with local Rotary Club members 1-2 p.m. March 18, in Deering auditorium.
Samar will give a public lecture 7 p.m. March 18, at the University of Southern Maine’s Hannaford Hall as part of the University of Maine School of Law’s Justice for Women Lecture Series. The lecture is free but registration is required. To register, please visit
Dr. Samar holds a medical degree from Kabul University. She fled to Pakistan after her husband was arrested during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. He was never heard from again.
During her 17 years in Pakistan, Dr. Samar became a leader for educating Afghan women and girls. She founded the Shuhada Organization, which now operates more than 50 schools for girls and boys in Afghanistan, three schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan and several hospitals and clinics. During the Taliban regime, Shuhada’s schools in central Afghanistan were among the few academic girls’ primary schools; the organization’s girls’ high schools were the only high schools that girls were able to attend in the country.
From December 2001 until June 2002, Dr. Samar served as the deputy chair and first minister of women’s affairs for the Interim Administration of Afghanistan. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs won the right of women government employees to return to their jobs and to keep their seniority, oversaw the re-entry of girls to schools, launched a women’s rights legal department and opened a school for married girls offering tailoring, literacy and embroidery courses.
Dr. Samar has been recognized by dozens of human rights and women’s rights organizations worldwide. She received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. In addition to her work in Afghanistan, she
serves as the United Nations special envoy to Darfur, Sudan.
Deering High School has joined the International Studies Schools Network to prepare students to be college- and career-ready and globally competent in an increasingly complex world. Deering students
investigate the world through interdisciplinary projects, recognize perspectives, communicate their ideas and take action.
The changes at Deering are part of Pathways to Success, an initiative to remodel the Portland Public Schools for the needs and demands of 21st century life. The work is being supported by a multi-year grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.