Dr Sima Samar, chairwoman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, was presented with the Tipperary International Peace Award at Ballykisteen Hotel in Limerick Junction on Thursday last at a ceremony attended by members of the diplomatic corps and leading public figures, which included National Women’s Council director Susan McKay and Senator David Norris.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Dr Samar said: “I am honoured and it is a great pleasure to receive this award. When I am recognised by the international community outside of Afghanistan, it serves to give me protection from being targeted by fundamentalists. I have bodyguards and when I go from my house to my office, I have 24-hour bodyguards. I cannot walk in the street or go to every public event.”
Dr Samar, who is under constant threat because of her constant campaigning for the rights of women in her country, went on to state that the award represented recognition by the International Community and such recognition would now greatly assist her own personal security in Afghanistan.
Dr Samar has had to flee Afghanistan on a number of occasions, however she continues to return, much to the anger of conservative religious leaders and Islamic radicals.
Irish President Mary McAleese, in a message to Dr Samar, stated: “This is a high honour and reflects the courage, generosity of spirit and great humanity that Dr Samar has demonstrated, during her untiring fight for the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan.“