Afghan active doctor receives award for refugee work in Turkey


ANKARA: The IGAM Research Center for Asylum and Migration in Ankara has honored an Afghan doctor for her work in refugee aid.
Zakira Hekmat, 33, received $ 2,000 from the center, headed by Metin Corabatir, former spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey.
Born as an internally displaced person in Jaghuri district in Ghazni province of Afghanistan, Hekmat said she was fortunate for what drove her to help other Afghan refugees.
“I think the best way to heal the pain of displacement, the destruction of my homeland and the suffering of my people is by giving back to my own community,” she told Arab News. “When I first came to Turkey, I was lucky enough to have a house to live and a university, but not everyone was lucky like me. That’s why I wanted to help them with all of my abilities, because I know that they face many challenges. “
Hekmat’s Afghan Refugees Solidarity Association (ARSA), which she founded in 2014, worked tirelessly throughout the coronavirus pandemic to help people in need, including those who lost their homes and jobs or were at risk, and became 2020 Washington recognized nonprofit HasNa as one of their Peacemaker of the Year for their work.
She graduated from high school and lived under the Taliban while working as a teacher due to the lack of female staff in her area. Hekmat then briefly attended Kabul University before moving to the medical faculty at Erciyes University in Kayseri, Turkey and then working in an immigrant health center in the city, mainly caring for refugees, many of whom came from neighboring Syria who fled the country’s civil war. .
Hekmat said her formative years in Afghanistan shaped her identity. The education of poor children in Ghazni shaped their lifelong commitment to social justice by reconnecting marginalized people with the rest of society.


Zakira Hekmat said her formative years in Afghanistan shaped her identity. The education of poor children in Ghazni shaped their lifelong commitment to social justice by reconnecting marginalized people with the rest of society.

Now it focuses on refugees, especially widowed women, refugee girls and children, by promoting education, language learning, cultural programs, capacity building, child-oriented activities, refugee translation services and awareness programs.
ARSA, she added, has worked on dozens of volunteer projects with financial support from UNHCR and the Turkish government, including building a network of 370 volunteer refugees in 58 cities across Turkey to help newly arrived refugees integrate into their cities help. and manufacturing and distributing items to protect them from the pandemic.
“By teaming up with our local volunteers, we made protective masks and soap (to prevent infection) and distributed them free of charge to needy NGOs across the country as well as to the refugees themselves,” said Hekmat. Her network produced about 1,000 face masks a day, she added.
In addition, ARSA, together with the UNHCR, helped around 600 needy Turks and Afghans by providing them with essential supplies for the winter and supplying over 6,000 families with hygiene kits.
“I don’t care about the country of birth, but I attach great importance to the country in which I can breathe freely and live,” says Hekmat. “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, ending marriages among minors and domestic violence, as well as promoting social cohesion and awareness campaigns for asylum seekers. She also started a project for refugee women to design accessories and other handicrafts.
“You have produced around 600 items (so far) and we have provided the raw material for them. It became a livelihood for them and served as a path to self-actualization, ”she said.
Corabatir said Hekmat had served as a bridge between every Afghan refugee and UN agencies in Turkey for more than a decade, trying to solve her problems with an extensive network she had built herself over years in the medical field and through her charity activities .
“We want to draw attention to this charity work and make the authorities aware of these people. She also showed her peers that they have the right to enjoy being refugees. It is important that these people inspire other refugees to raise awareness and drive social change in their communities, ”Corabatir said.
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 information from the UNHCR.


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