Afghan activist doctor receives award for work with refugees in Turkey

ANKARA: The Ankara-based IGAM Asylum and Migration Research Center recognized an Afghan doctor for his work helping refugees.
Zakira Hekmat, 33, received $ 2,000 from the center, run by Metin Corabatir, a former spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey.
Hekmat, herself born displaced in Jaghuri district in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, said she considers herself lucky, which prompted her to help other Afghan refugees.
“I believe that by giving back to my own community, I can better heal the pain of displacement, the ruin of my homeland and the suffering of my people,” she told Arab News. “I was lucky to have a house to live and a university to attend when I arrived in Turkey, but not everyone was lucky like me. So, I wanted to help them with all my abilities because I know they face many challenges.
The Hekmat Afghan Refugee Solidarity Association (ARSA), which she established in 2014, has worked tirelessly throughout the coronavirus disease pandemic to help those in need, including those in need. lost their home and job or remained vulnerable, and she was recognized in 2020 by Washington- based charity HasNa as one of its Peacebuilders of the Year for her work.
She graduated from high school living under the Taliban while also becoming a teacher due to a shortage of female staff in her area. Hekmat then briefly attended Kabul University as an undergraduate student before moving to Erciyes University Medical School in Kayseri, Turkey and then working at an immigrant health center in the city. , mainly in the service of refugees, many of whom came from neighboring Syria fleeing the country’s civil war. .
Hekmat said his years of training in Afghanistan shaped his identity. Teaching poor children in Ghazni, she said, shaped her lifelong commitment to social justice by reconnecting marginalized people with the rest of society.


Zakira Hekmat said her years of training in Afghanistan shaped her identity. Teaching poor children in Ghazni, she said, shaped her lifelong commitment to social justice by reconnecting marginalized people with the rest of society.

She now focuses on refugees, especially widowed women, refugee girls and children, promoting education, language learning, cultural programs, capacity building, child-focused activities, translation services for refugees and by conducting outreach programs.
ARSA, she added, had worked on dozens of voluntary projects with financial support from UNHCR and the Turkish government, including establishing a network of 370 voluntary refugees in 58 cities across Turkey. to help newly arrived refugees settle in their towns, and to produce and distribute items to protect them from the pandemic.
“By teaming up with our local volunteers, we produced protective masks and soap (to help prevent) contagion, and we distributed them free to NGOs in need across the country as well as to refugees themselves. same, ”Hekmat said. Her network was producing around 1,000 face masks per day, she added.
In addition, together with UNHCR, ARSA has assisted around 600 needy Turks and Afghans with essential winter supplies and delivered hygiene kits to more than 6,000 families.
“I don’t care much about the country of birth, but I attach great importance to the country where I can breathe and live freely,” Hekmat said. “We can only overcome stereotypes and prejudices against refugees if we listen to each other and come together over a cup of Turkish tea.
Her current work also focuses on child protection, stopping underage marriages and domestic violence, and promoting social cohesion and awareness campaigns on asylum seekers. She also started a project for refugee women to design accessories and other crafts.
“They’ve produced around 600 items (so far) and we’ve provided them with the raw material. It became a source of sustenance for them and served as a path to self-fulfillment, ”she said.
Corabatir said Hekmat had served as a bridge for more than a decade between every Afghan refugee and UN agencies in Turkey, and tried to solve their problems with a vast network she had established over the years in the medical sector and through its charitable activities.
“We intend to publicize these charities and bring these people to the attention of the authorities. She has also shown her peers that they have the right to cum as refugees. It is essential that these people inspire other refugees to raise awareness and drive social change in their communities, ”said Corabatir.
Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees and around 330,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers of other nationalities, including Afghans and Pakistanis, according to the latest data from UNHCR.

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