Hamida Barmaki

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Hamida Barmaki
Born (1970-01-04)4 January 1970
Kabul, Afghanistan
Died 28 January 2011(2011-01-28) (aged 41)
Kabul, Afghanistan
Occupation Law Professor and Human Rights Activist

Prof. Hamida Barmaki (4 January 1970 – 28 January 2011) was a renowned Afghan law professor and human rights activist. She was killed in a suicide attack with her entire family.[1]

Academic career[edit]

Hamida Barmaki was born in Kabul on 4 January 1970. After attending the Ariana High School in Kabul (1977–1987) she studied law at the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of Kabul University. Her excellent results enabled her to become one of the first women in Afghanistan to follow a career in the judicial service. In order to learn more about the practice of law she followed the postgraduate training course of the Attorney General's Office 1990-1991, before returning to Kabul University as a law professor (1992–2011).

Her main area of interest as an academic were the fundamental issues of civil law. Hamida Barmaki was one of the few Afghan scholars who had studied in depth both the Islamic and the Romano-Germanic sources of law, which form the basis of the hybrid laws constituting the Afghan legal system. Her works include numerous journal articles and books in the Dari language, including an academic thesis on the "Interpretation of Statutes" (Kabul University, 2002) and a master thesis in English (University of Bologna, unpublished, 2004). Her last work, a large volume on the law of obligation, is being completed by academic friends. The objective of Hamida Barmaki's academic work was to provide a thorough understanding of the difficult Afghan legal system. For this purpose she used not only the classical methods of interpretation of Islamic and secular law, but she also relied on comparative legal analysis as a tool to find solutions for legal problems from other legal systems. She studied the necessary literature in Dari, English and Arabic. At the university she was admired by her students and colleagues for her analytical skills and her patient and friendly manner towards everybody she met.

Beside graduating from the Law Faculty at Kabul University, Professor Barmaki obtained a Master Degree in Development, Innovation and Change (MiDIC) from the University of Bologna, Italy.[2] In December 2010 she received a scholarship for a doctorate in law from the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law (Hamburg, Germany). At her home faculty, Hamida Barmaki struggled to establish an LL.M. program which she believed to be an essential tool for the development of an elite group of lawyers inside the country.

Political work[edit]

Beside her academic career, Hamida Barmaki was actively concerned with human rights from an early age. Already as a young broadcaster with Radio Television Afghanistan (1985–1987) she developed a special interest in women's rights. In the middle of the Civil War she wrote an essay on "Women’s Role in the Social Reconstruction of Afghanistan" (Afghanistan-i-Fardah booklet, 1993). She combined her academic work with a non-violent, strenuous political struggle to promote the rights of the most vulnerable in Afghan society. After the fall of the Taliban regime she could work in public and was immediately appointed to important positions. She served as a member of the Women’s Council of Kabul University (2002–2011), as a representative in the Emergency Loya Jirga (2002) and the Peace Jirga (2009). She founded her own human rights organisation, "Khorasan Legal Service Organisation", in 2009. KLSO mainly aimed at raising citizens’ awareness of their rights and providing free legal assistance to women and other marginalized groups.[3] In the same year her name was mentioned by the Presidential Palace as a possible candidate for Minister of Women's Affairs (Afghanistan).

From March 2008 until her death, Hamida Barmaki worked as Representative of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law (MPIL),[4] a research institute based in Heidelberg (Germany) with extensive activities in support of the judicial institutions and universities in Afghanistan.[5] Together with an Afghan-German team of researchers she initiated and implemented projects aimed at modernizing the judicial institutions of the country, especially the Afghan Supreme Court, developing an academic culture in legal sciences on an international level, and improving the existing legislation.[6]

Other significant positions included those of Project Coordinator of the Institut International Pour Les Études Comparatives (IIPEC),[7] Head of the Law and Political Sciences Department at the National Center for Policy Research of Kabul University[8] (2006–2008), Legal Advisor to the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU)[9] (2006), Director of the Women’s Islamic Rights Awareness Program of The Asia Foundation (2004), Program Manager of the Afghan Women Lawyers' Council (2003–2004), Member of the UNIFEM Gender and Law Commission (2003–2004), and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences (2002).

Child Rights Commissioner of the AIHRC[edit]

In 2009 Hamida Barmaki was appointed Child Rights Commissioner of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) while keeping her responsibilities with the Max Planck Institute. Through her new position she gained not only a nationwide but an international reputation. Hamida Barmaki was deeply concerned about the vulnerability of children in war-torn Afghanistan, she travelled to many provinces to consult with AIHRC staff and investigate cases, commissioned research and openly criticized the government.[10] One of the results was a study on child abuse which indicated rising numbers.[11] Immediately after its publication, Hamida Barmaki initiated the first MPIL-AIHRC seminar on women and children’s rights. Meanwhile, her struggle against the recruitment of minors by the Afghan security force where many of them are abused and the practice of bacha bazi (sexual slavery of boys) was just becoming effective. A respective agreement between representatives of the Afghan state and the United Nations was planned to be signed two days after her killing.[12] Professor Barmaki was also concerned about child marriage. Together with civil society activists, academics and lawyers from state institutions she had developed marriage forms and other tools aiming at a better protection of minor girls.[13]

Hamida Barmaki also took a clear position in the ongoing discussion on the relevance of customary law in the justice system of Afghanistan. Based upon her experience with many human rights cases she strongly advocated a modern, Western-style court system as had existed until the Afghan civil war, and opposed proposals to formalize traditional institutions and forms of conflict resolution, such as the Pashtun jirgas, which are notorious for ignoring human and especially women and children's rights.

Death and commemoration[edit]

On Friday 28 January 2011 Hamida Barmaki, her husband Dr. Masood Yama (born 1968) - a medical doctor at the Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan Hospital and Director of Monitoring and Evaluation of Deputy Minister of Finance for Policy and Senior National Adviser for Cluster Secretariat - and their four children, Narwan Dunia (born 1995), Wira Sahar (born 1997), Marghana Nila (born 2000) Ahmad Belal (born 2007) were killed together in a suicide attack on the "Finest" supermarket in Kabul. At least two other people died in the incident and seventeen were injured.[14] Among the dead was a young female judge called Najia, daughter of Siddiqullah Sahel, who had met Hamida through the judicial training program organized by the Max Planck Institute (MPIL), which Hamida had coordinated in support of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan in 2009. Hezbi Islami as well as the Taliban claimed responsibility but the murderer may also have belonged to the Haqqani network or another terrorist organization. The attack came totally unexpectedly as such incidents rarely happen during the Afghan weekend. It has also been assumed that the unidentified murderer had originally planned to kill a high-ranking politician and chosen the supermarket at random when his first plan failed. Commentators sharply criticized the fact that the Afghan government was openly involved in "peace talks" with the organizations who claimed responsibility for this act of extreme violence against civilians.

Hamida Barmaki left behind her parents Rahimuddin and Anissa, four sisters and four brothers, and her mother-in law, the renowned Senator, Member of the Constitutional Oversight Commission and Law Professor Mahbooba Huqoqmal.[15] More than two thousand friends and colleagues came to the Shohada-e Salehin Cemetery when the family was buried on 29 January 2011. Over ten thousand paid their respect to them in a memorial ceremony in Kabul’s large Id Gah Mosque.

The AIHRC organized an impressive mourning ceremony on 1 February 2011.[16] Immediately after her death, Hamida Barmaki began to be remembered as a "shahid" ("martyr"). However, there were also voices speaking out against the use of this term which is likewise employed by terrorist organisations and does not reflect the peaceful and tolerant character of Hamida Barmaki. It should be noted that the discussion over her commemoration shows that she is becoming a symbol figure in Afghanistan. Some of her closest colleagues established the Hamida Barmaki Organization for the Rule of Law (HBORL) in Kabul. This non-governmental and non-profit organization was named after her in honor of her tremendous commitment to strengthening the rule of law and human rights in Afghanistan. The HBORL was registered by the Ministry of Economy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on 26.06.2013 (Registration No. 2991).[17] Moreover, the Max Planck Foundation for International Peace and Rule of Law named an academic program after her and offers "Hamida Barmaki Ph.D. Scholarships" to Afghan jurists and particularly law lecturers.[18] The Hamida Barmaki Organisation and the Max Planck Foundation work closely together.

Selected Publications[edit]

2008- Law of Obligations (teaching booklet, Kabul University 2008)

2007/2008- Causes of Political Instability and Possible Options for its Improvement in Afghanistan (National Centre for Policy Research, Kabul University)

2006- Women’s Rights in Islam and Afghanistan's Statutes (booklet, published in June 2006 by The Asia Foundation, Kabul).

2005- Women’s Role in the Reconstruction of Afghanistan, Women’s Integration in the Labor Market, Status in Exile and the Development of ICT (master thesis, Bologna University, Italy).

2007- Women’s Political Rights in Islam (article, published in Hoquq Magazine of the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences).

2006- Reba and the Reasons of its Prevention (article, published in 'Adalat magazine of the Ministry of Justice).

2006- Individual Contracts (article, published in Hoquq Magazine of the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences).

2004- Violence against Women (article, published in Human Rights Magazine, Kabul).

2004- Political Idioms of the Constitution and the Agreement of Bonn (National Centre of Policy Research, Kabul University)

2004- Polygamy (article, published by Human Rights Magazine, Kabul).

2004- Afghan Women’s Political Rights (article, published by Human Rights Magazine).

2003- Peaceful Approaches towards Solving Conflicts (article, published by ICRC Magazine, Kabul).

2002- Interpretation of Statutes (academic thesis, published by Kabul University).

1993- Women’s Role in the Social Reconstruction of Afghanistan (published in Afghanistan-i- Fardah booklet).

1991- Robbery in Criminal Investigation (academic paper, published by Kabul University).


  1. ^ UNICEF (2011-01-29). "UNICEF Afghanistan mourns the death of Hamida Barmaki". 
  2. ^ See, http://bologna.repubblica.it/cronaca/2011/02/01/news/addio_hamida_di_uccisa_a_kabul_dopo_un_anno_all_alma_mater-11905567
  3. ^ KLSO was partly funded by the National Endowment for Democracy. See, http://www.ned.org/where-we-work/middle-east-and-northern-africa/afghanistan
  4. ^ http://www.mpil.de
  5. ^ http://www.mpil.de/red/afghanistan
  6. ^ See, http://www.mpil.de/ww/en/pub/research/details/content19953.cfm
  7. ^ http://www.iipec.eu
  8. ^ http://www.ncpr.af
  9. ^ http://www.areu.org.af
  10. ^ http://www.ww4report.com/node/8161
  11. ^ See, http://www.pajhwok.com/en/2010/11/22/child-sexual-abuse-cases-increased-afghanistan and http://www.rferl.org/content/Outrage_NATO_Kabul_Childrens_Fears/2228600.html</ref
  12. ^ See, http://www.tampabay.com/incoming/afghans-agree-to-stop-recruiting-children-as-police-sex-slaves/1148577
  13. ^ See, http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2011/02/21/afghanistan-family-bombing
  14. ^ See, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/world/asia/30kabul.html?_r=3
  15. ^ http://www.afghan-bios.info/tinckey=2vB1wwzV&session_currentpage=data&session_mode=guest&formname=afghan_bios&session_sortby=field_3&userid=1295591172;506009;8&session_nextpage=data_edit&session_offset=50&session_start=651&session_dbkey=1255441434;805599;895_afghan_bios&dbkey=1255441434;805599;895_afghan_bios
  16. ^ For pictures see, http://lauralean.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/condolence-ceremony
  17. ^ See www.hborl.org.af
  18. ^ See, http://www.mpfpr.de/projects/country-based-projects/afghanistan/current-projects/phd-programme-for-law-lecturers/"

The Max Planck Foundation. www.hborl.org.af".  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help);

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