Dr. Sima Samar defied the Taliban for 12 years to ensure that Afghan women had access to health care and education. After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, she became the first woman appointed to a Cabinet position in the interim Afghan government.
For those accomplishments, Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy yesterday presented Samar with one of the 2004 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Awards at the JFK Library and Museum. The award, given annually to public servants who stand up to strong opposition, is named after President John F. Kennedy's 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Profiles in Courage," which recounts the stories of eight US senators who risked their careers to fight for their beliefs.
"I am proud to accept this very prestigious award from the Kennedy family," said Samar, who is chairwoman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. "It is an honor to be with members of a family who have dedicated their lives to social justice."
Cindy Watson, a former state representative in North Carolina, and Paul Muegge, who was a state senator in Oklahoma, were also honored for their work to protect the environment and the health of their constituents. The two stood up to the hog industry; in 1997, Watson cosponsored legislation that forced farmers to better handle animal waste. In 1998, Muegge also helped pass legislation that required new hog farms to be set back from neighboring properties and other new regulations to protect the environment.
"Both Senator Muegge and Representative Watson recognized that to introduce legislation to regulate the corporate hog farm industry was risking the wrath of the industry," said Senator Kennedy as he presented the awards. "But they went ahead and did what they believed was right."
The Profile in Courage Award, created in 1989, is given annually in connection with President Kennedy's birthday on May 29.