The Geuzen Medal for 2011 wil be awarded to Sima Samar and the Netherlands Armed Forces. Sima Samar chairs the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and is the founder of the Shuhada Organisation. She was recognised for her contributions to advancing human rights and women’s rights and welfare in Afghanistan.
General P.J.M. (Peter) van Uhm will accept the Geuzenpenning 2011 on behalf of the Netherlands armed forces. General Van Uhm is Chief of Defense, the highest ranking military officer and thus the most important military adviser to the Minister of Defense. Among other things, the general is responsible for planning and implementing the military operations of the Ministry of Defence.
The award ceremony will take place in Vlaardingen in the Netherlands on 14 March 2010.
Life for women in Afghanistan has never been easy. The power of male family members is so great that women are rarely given the chance to make their own decisions. During the years of the communist regime, women were given more room to manoeuvre but the arrival of the Taliban in 1994 heralded a drastic deterioration in the position of women. Women were not permitted to work outside the home, were banned from pursuing an education and were forced to wear a burqa – a piece of clothing that covers the body from head to toe – whenever they went outside. Women were even forbidden to walk down the street without being accompanied by their husband or a male family member. Life was even more difficult for widows. Medical facilities for women were also in short supply. Once the Taliban were driven from power in 2001, hope blossomed that the situation for women would improve. And officially this has been the case. Women are permitted to work again, they can remove their head scarves, walk down the street without an escort and pursue an education. Women are better able to stand up for themselves and are opening up their own problems (such as forced marriages, honour killings and rape) to discussion. The reality, however, is less hopeful. The Taliban have returned to power in many areas, while other conservative figures are also making a freer life for women very difficult, if not impossible.
Sima Samar was born in Jaghori, Ghazni, Afghanistan, on 4 February 1957. In 1979 the communist regime arrested her husband. Samar obtained her degree in medicine from Kabul University in February 1982. She practised medicine at a government hospital in Kabul but after a few months was forced to flee for her safety to her native Jaghori, where she provided medical treatment to patients throughout the remote areas of central Afghanistan. Later, in 1984, Samar and her young son fled to the safety of nearby Pakistan. She then worked as a doctor at the refugee branch of the Mission Hospital. Distressed by the lack of health care facilities for Afghan refugee women, she established a hospital in 1987 and in 1989 the Shuhada Clinic in Quetta, Pakistan. Later she established the Shuhada Organisation. This organisation was dedicated to providing health care to Afghan women and girls, training medical staff and education. In the following years, further branches of the clinic/hospital were opened throughout Afghanistan.
Minister for Women’s Affairs
After living in exile for over a decade, Samar returned to Afghanistan in December 2001 to assume a cabinet post in the Afghan Interim Administration led by Hamid Karzai. In the interim government, she served as Deputy President and then as Minister for Women’s Affairs. She was forced to resign from her post after receiving death threats and being harassed for questioning conservative Islamic laws, especially sharia law. She did this during an interview in Canada with a Persian language newspaper. During the 2002 Emergency Loya Jirga, a grand legislative council charged with establishing a two-year transitional government, several religious conservatives placed an advertisement in a local newspaper calling Samar the Salman Rushdie of Afghanistan. Samar worked as Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Sudan between September 2005 and June 2009. She currently heads the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
Samar is one of the 4 main subjects in Sally Armstrong’s 2004 documentary (Daughters of Afghanistan), which describes Samar’s work as the Minister of Women’s Affairs and her subsequent fall from power.
Samar speaks against the burqa and purdah
Samar publicly refuses to accept that women must be kept in purdah (secluded from the public) and speaks out against the wearing of the burqa, which was first enforced by the fundamentalist mujahideen and then by the Taliban. She also has drawn attention to the fact that many women in Afghanistan suffer from osteomalacia, a softening of the bones, due to an inadequate diet. Wearing the burqa reduces exposure to sunlight and aggravates the situation for women suffering from osteomalacia.
The Netherlands armed forces
The Netherlands armed forces are the operational arm of the Ministry of Defence and consist of four branches: the Royal Netherlands Navy, Royal Netherlands Army, Royal Netherlands Air Force and Royal Netherlands Marechaussee.
The Ministry of Defence has three main tasks: defending the sovereign territory and that of its allies, protecting and promoting international stability and rule of law and providing support for civil authorities in maintaining law and order, disaster recovery and humanitarian aid. The government determines where and under what conditions the armed forces are deployed, such as in the mission in Afghanistan.
The Netherlands deploys its armed forces for international missions to create greater security and stability in the world. The contribution to crisis-management operations is combined with diplomacy and development aid. This is the strategy of the three D’s: Development, Diplomacy and Defense.
The 3D strategy has gained renown, particularly during the mission in Afghanistan. The 3D approach is the result of lessons learned during prior Defence missions and was further elaborated together with the Ministry of Development Cooperation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and civil partners. 3D is based on an integrated approach to a mission, using the motto: “build where you can, fight where you must”. The Netherlands is not the only country to apply the 3D approach in Afghanistan. Other countries also tried from the start to implement this approach and interpreted the 3D strategy in their own way. The fact that other parties have labelled this strategy the ‘Dutch Approach’ is a great compliment for the Netherlands armed forces and the cooperating partners.
The ‘inkblot’ symbolises the Dutch strategy for the mission in Uruzgan. Back in 2006, the Netherlands were stationed in Tarin Kowt and in Deh Rawod and the areas controlled by the international military forces (the inkblots) then consisted of a radius of a few kilometres around these areas. The objective was to expand these areas. After some time, Chora was added to the list of controlled areas, and these inkblots are now all linked. Progress in the region can be discerned from the increased economic and social activities: more commerce, better roads, the growth in shops, lighting in the town, etc. Military personnel, diplomats and development workers who have frequently visited the area have noticed the progress. To westerners who were not familiar with the prior situation, this might not seem like much, but for the people of Uruzgan, the change has been significant.
The mission in Uruzgan also came at a price: 24 Dutch troops lost their lives in their efforts to help the people of Afghanistan achieve a more secure future. These troops made the ultimate sacrifice. Furthermore, more than 140 troops were wounded during their missions – some visibly and others invisibly.
Although public focus has often been on the mission in Afghanistan, the Netherlands armed forces have also been active in many other countries. From Burundi to the Balkans and from the Indian Ocean to Iraq, the 3D concept has been applied in all these efforts.
The Geuzenpenning is intended to honour and support present day freedom fighters and human rights activists. It is an initiative of the Stichting Geuzenverzet 1940-1945 (Geuzen Resistance Foundation 1940-1945). The organisation was founded by former Dutch resistance fighters in the Second World War. The Geuzenpenning is awarded to individuals and organisations devoted to fighting for human rights and against dictatorship, discrimination and racism. Previous laureates have included the Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and the International Campaign for Tibet.
Monday 14 March: remembrance and presentation
Most members of the Geuzen Resistance from the Second World War came from Schiedam, Rotterdam, Maassluis and Vlaardingen. On Monday 14 March, the Geuzen Resistance will be remembered and the Geuzenpenning will be awarded in Vlaardingen. The remembrance starts at Emaus cemetery, with the laying of wreathes and flowers and a minute’s silence at the Geuzengraf. A silent procession then proceed from the Geuzengraf to the Market Place. There will be a remembrance at the Geuzen Monument, followed by the presentation of the Geuzenpenning in the Grote Kerk.