Categotry Archives: Extraordinary People

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Islam Bibi

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Categories: Extraordinary People, Law

Lt. Islam Bibi’s decision to become a police officer would not have raised eyebrows in the west. But signing up for such a dangerous job in southern Afghanistan turned her into a symbol of female empowerment.

Under the Taliban rule, women were banned from working outside of the home. They could not receive an education after the age of 8, be treated by male doctors or ride a bicycle. Women were not allowed to drive, vote, play sports, run for public office or appear on radio or television. On the rare occasions when women were allowed to leave their homes, they were required to wear a burqa, a garment that covered them from head to toe, and be accompanied by a close male relative.

Violating any of these rules, which were enforced by the Department for the Propagation of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice, could lead to verbal abuse, beatings and execution. The religious police even punished rape victims — who were considered guilty of adultery and fornication — by publicly flogging or stoning them for their “crimes.”

Experts believe that 60 to 80 percent of Afghan marriages were arranged by force. According to a report by UN Women and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, 56 percent of all marriages in Afghanistan occurred when the bride was under the age of 16. Domestic violence is endemic, and many women choose suicide to escape.

After the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, the Karzai administration relaxed policies concerning women’s rights. Afghanistan’s new constitution, which was adopted in 2004, also recognized the equality of men and women, yet much of the country’s male population clung to the Taliban’s ultra-conservative outlook.

In the past decade, Afghan women have slowly started to emerge from the prisons that were their homes. They have removed the burqa, opened small businesses and even sent their daughters to school. These actions involved a great deal of courage since the Taliban continued to wage war on them by poisoning water supplies, fire-bombing schools, killing teachers and throwing acid on female students.

Bibi was one of those brave women.

At 10, she was forced to marry a man who was 43. Bibi had the first of her five children when she was just 15. Then in 2004, she decided to join the Afghan National Police because she needed a salary and wanted to create a safer future for her three sons and two daughters.

“Firstly I needed the money, but secondly I love my country,” Bibi said in April. “I feel proud wearing the uniform and I want to try to make Afghanistan a better and stronger country.”

As a police officer, Bibi enforced security, searched passengers at the airport, trained other female officers and protected voters at polling stations. She even single-handedly stopped a would-be suicide bomber from detonating his explosives by throwing herself on top of him when he resisted arrest.

Over the next nine years, Bibi rose through the ranks to become the most senior female officer serving in the Helmand province. She commanded a team of nearly three dozen female officers in the criminal investigation department in Lashkar Gah, and was often profiled in the international press as a role model.

For this, Bibi was regularly intimidated by insurgents and opium smugglers, and received numerous death threats. Some of those threats came from her own family. Her brother was so hell-bent on killing her for having the temerity to work that the government eventually decided to take away his gun.

On July 4, the extremists succeeded in stopping Bibi. She was riding a motorbike to work alongside her son-in-law when two gunmen opened fire. Bibi was seriously injured in the attack, and later died in the emergency room. Her son-in-law was also wounded.

She was 37.

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Jairo Mora Sandoval

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Jairo Mora Sandoval Costa Rican environmentalist Jairo Mora Sandoval was passionate about protecting endangered leatherback turtles and their nests. That noble work may have cost him his life.

He was killed on May 31 at the age of 26.

Mora Sandoval was born in Costa Rica and became an animal lover at an early age. Nicknamed “Seal,” he grew up on a farm in Mata de Limon, rode horses and helped his family care for the area’s sea turtles. As a young adult, Mora Sandoval studied biology and worked for the animal rescue group Paradero Eco-Tour. In his spare time, he volunteered for the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST), a nonprofit group that protects turtle nests from poachers on the country’s Caribbean coast.

Leatherback turtles are the largest of living turtles, growing up to 7 feet and 2,000 pounds. While they play an important role in marine ecology by keeping jellyfish populations down, humans continue to decimate their nesting areas. Currently, the leatherback is listed as a critically endangered species whose numbers have reportedly fallen to almost one-fifth of what they were in 1980.

Although sea turtles are protected by law in Costa Rica, poachers raid the animals’ nests and sell the eggs on the black market for $1 each. The eggs are often consumed in a drink as an aphrodisiac or traded for drugs. In response, members of WIDECAST patrol the beaches where these turtles lay their eggs.

A few weeks before Mora Sandoval’s death, a team of journalists from La Nacion accompanied him on an overnight patrol. During the interview, he decried the government’s claims that police had been watching over the beaches. Mora Sandoval rescued 172 turtle eggs that night, but looters still managed to destroy nine nests. No police patrols were ever spotted.

In recent years, conservationists have been threatened by “hueveros” (egg thieves) for trying to protect the turtles and their habitat. Mora Sandoval’s friends told the media that he received numerous death threats and was once ordered, at gunpoint, to stop patrolling.

On the night of May 30, Mora Sandoval and four female volunteers were patrolling Moin beach in the Limon province, an area that is frequently used by drug traffickers and turtle egg poachers. The group was ambushed by five armed and masked men, who kidnapped and robbed the women. They later escaped from their attackers and contacted police.

Mora Sandoval’s naked body was found face-down on a beach the next morning. According to WIDECAST director Didiher Chacon, Mora Sandoval was bound and beaten. Autopsy results listed cause of death as asphyxiation and blunt force trauma to the head.

Since Mora Sandoval’s slaying, WIDECAST has been forced to cancel all patrols at Moin beach, leaving the sea turtle population particularly vulnerable.

“We can’t risk human lives for this project,” Chacon said. “But this is probably the exact result that the killers were hoping for.”

Environmentalists have submitted a proposal to the government asking for park rangers to have more authority to stop poachers and for the designation of a new protected area to be named after Mora Sandoval. Conservation groups have also offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his killers.

“Jairo’s murderers must be brought to justice so that sea turtle activists around Costa Rica and the world know that this will never be tolerated,” Todd Steiner, executive director of SeaTurtles.org, said. “The whole world is watching to make sure the Costa Rican government brings these thugs to justice and makes sea turtle nesting beaches safe for conservationists to do their work.”

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Kim Hill

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Kimberly Michelle Hill was only three years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia in 1969. At the time, doctors told her family she wouldn’t live to adulthood. But after spending the next three-and-a-half years undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, young Kim defied the odds and survived.

Hill’s father, Fred, who was a tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles, was so touched by the emotional and financial support he received from his teammates and their families that he decided to dedicate his life to helping other families battle pediatric cancers. With aid from his neighbor, Stan Lane, Fred formed a nonprofit organization called Eagles Fly for Leukemia.

Over the next 30 years, Eagles Fly for Leukemia donated more than $6 million to pediatric cancer and leukemia research. Through its Family Support Fund, the foundation has provided financial assistance to struggling families to alleviate the non-medical expenses related to caring for children with cancer. Each year, the foundation also awards three $1,500 Kim Hill Scholarships to survivors of childhood cancer.

Dr. Audrey Evans of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia saw a need for short-term lodging near the hospital for families of cancer patients, and suggested that Hill allocate some funds for just such a purpose. In 1974, local McDonald’s restaurants decided to help the cause by featuring Eagles players on Shamrock Shakes and donating a portion of the proceeds to the housing fund. When a McDonald’s official offered all the shake proceeds if the house was named after its clown mascot, Ronald McDonald, the charity agreed.

That first Ronald McDonald House became the model for an international network of temporary housing for families of sick children.

Today, Ronald McDonald House Charities operates 302 houses in over 30 countries.

“[Kim] didn’t like being sick, but in a way she was glad she was, because of the good things that happened because of it,” Fred Hill said.

As a child, Kim Hill ran cross-country, sang in the choir and rode horses with her two sisters. She bore a son and studied cosmetology after high school, but eventually worked as a manager at one of her father’s McDonald’s restaurants. When she was well enough, Hill also served as a spokeswoman for Ronald McDonald House Charities, appearing at openings, benefits and other promotional events.

When doctors discovered Hill had developed brain tumors in 1991, she and her family even lived in a Ronald McDonald House while she underwent the first of five brain operations. The tumors continued to grow, however, and eventually she lost her mobility, sight and ability to speak. The last 13 years of her life were spent living in a nursing home.

Hill died on March 5 of brain cancer. She was 44.

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Harry Fogle

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Harry Lee Fogle, who is believed to be the last surviving worker to help build the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge, died on Feb. 10 of congestive heart failure. He was 97.

Fogle was born on a Wisconsin dairy farm that lacked electricity. When the bank foreclosed on the property, he became a painter for the railroad and worked his way from the Midwest to California.

In 1935, Fogle landed a job painting the towers and supporting cables of the Bay Bridge. It was during the Great Depression, and he felt “lucky” to have a job working hundreds of feet in the air — without a safety net — for $11 a day. Dozens of men died during the construction of the Bay Bridge. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, a fatal accident occurred nearly every six weeks.

The next year, Fogle was hired to paint the main cables and the 746-foot-tall towers of the unfinished Golden Gate Bridge. Eleven workers perished during the construction of the 4,200-foot-long suspension span, including 10 in February 1937 when their scaffolding fell through a safety net.

Once completed, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge span in the world. The bridge opened to vehicular traffic on May 28, 1937, and since then, more than 2 billion cars have traversed its span.

Although Fogle also painted portions of the Carquinez Bridge, he continued working, on and off, as a painter and foreman on the Golden Gate Bridge for over 40 years. After decades of dealing with dangerous working conditions, including heights, fog and wind, he retired in 1976.

His final years were spent remodeling his home and traveling. Fogle is survived by his wife, Marie, two daughters, a son, seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

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Susana Chavez

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Categories: Extraordinary People

Susana Chavez spent the final years of her life trying to halt feminicide in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Earlier this month, she ended up joining the ranks of the town’s many victims.

Located across the border from El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez has become one of the world’s deadliest cities as the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels battle for control of smuggling routes. But even before rampant drug violence took over the headlines, the city was infamous for a series of murders. Since 1993, hundreds of women and teenage girls have been raped, killed and dumped in the desert. More than 3,000 are still missing.

Several men have confessed to the slayings, and two were convicted, but the vast majority of the cases remain unsolved. From 2003 to 2006, a federal commission studied the cases, in hopes of uncovering the truth behind allegations of state police corruption and incompetence. However, no additional charges were filed after the inquiry ended — mostly due to lack of evidence. In 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the Mexican government negligent on preventing violence against the women of Ciudad Juarez.

Born in 1974, Chavez began writing when she was only 11 years old. She grew up in Ciudad Juarez, became a well-respected poet, published the book “Song to a City in the Desert” and studied psychology at the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez. She was also a human rights activist and a prominent member of May Our Daughters Return Home, a group comprised of the family and friends of the slain women and girls.

Chavez was determined to stop the killings and frequently blasted local authorities for failing to end the feminicide and bring the killers to justice. She even coined the phrase “Ni una muerta mas” (“Not One More Dead”), which became a popular rallying cry at demonstrations against the continued violence.

On the night of Jan. 5, Chavez, 36, was reportedly hanging out with three young men when an argument ensued. The men attacked her, covering her face with tape and drowning her until she suffocated. The trio then used a saw to cut off her hand and dumped her body on the street.

Authorities later arrested three suspects, who are all members of the local drug gang Azteca. According to Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office, the suspects said they found it “easy” to kill Chavez and forgot that they had left her hand back at the house.

The Mexican Congress’ Standing Commission and the National Commission on Human Rights have condemned the Chavez murder. And Amnesty International has called on authorities to conduct “a prompt, impartial investigation that is in keeping with international standards.”

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