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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 16:59 GMT
Profile: Sima Samar
Dr Sima Samar
Dr Samar is the first woman to win such a senior post
Dr Sima Samar was on a lecture tour in Canada when the news broke that she had been named deputy premier of the new government in Afghanistan.

Dr Samar, who is from the minority Hazara ethnic group, has been placed in charge of women's affairs in Afghanistan.

I've always been in danger, but I don't mind

Sima Samar
Although women often served as ministers in cabinets before the Taleban came to power, Dr Samar will be the first woman to occupy such a senior post.

"I was not expecting this position so I've really not prioritised what I'm going to do," she said..

Clinics set up

Dr Samar fled Afghanistan for Pakistan 17 years ago after her husband was arrested during the Russian occupation. He was never heard from again.

She gained a medical degree from Kabul University and developed a passion for women's rights.

She practised medicine in a border refugee camp before opening a hospital for women in 1987.
women and children in Afghan clinic
Dr Samar opened clinics for Afghan women and children

With initial funding from Church World Service, she began setting up clinics and girls' schools inside Afghanistan, travelling frequently between the two countries.

When the Russians withdrew in 1992, Afghanistan lost its strategic value to the United States.

The US Central Intelligence Agency shut the tap on the $3.3bn it had poured into the rebels' coffers since 1979.

Dangerous role

In all, Dr Samar opened 10 Afghan clinics and four hospitals for women and children, as well as schools in rural Afghanistan for more than 17,000 students.

In Pakistan, she founded a hospital and school for refugee girls.

Literacy programmes established by her organisation were accompanied by distribution of food aid and information on hygiene and family planning.

These were dangerous pursuits under the Taleban regime. But the risks did not deter the doctor.

"I've always been in danger, but I don't mind," she said. "I believe we will die one day so I said let's take the risk and help somebody else."

See also:

06 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's new women politicians
04 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghan women want their voices heard
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
Kabul women's march thwarted
24 Nov 01 | South Asia
Kabul women keep the veil
23 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan women enjoy their freedom
23 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan women to attend talks
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