June 18, 2024

A heavy hitter coming to Wittenberg to give a series of talks is no surprise, but the University has now seen among the brightest minds in the human rights sector. Lawyer and Ph.D. Candidate Rafia Zakaria came to Wittenberg for a series of lectures and a panel discussion over the course of two days. Zakaria is also the first female Pakistani director of Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization that brings to light the human rights violations across the world and works with multiple organizations to end those violations. She serves on the Board of Directors for Amnesty International where she currently chairs the Planning and Priorities Committee.
Zakaria was part of a panel discussion held Oct. 2 with Professor of Political Science Yu Bin and Steve Fryburg, the director of the Dayton International Peace Museum. The panel discussed drone warfare and its effectiveness and legality in use against society. On Thursday, Oct. 3, Zakaria spoke about the Lady Health Worker Program, which allowed women across Pakistan who did not leave their homes for cultural reasons to receive health care for themselves and their children. She spoke about the demise of the program and how the program itself stood for a larger issue with Pakistan and the world at large. Zakaria also spoke on Thursday about Sharia law and Muslim women, and how that translated into the American court system. She explained what Sharia is, how it varies from family to family, and how to protect Muslim women in the United States.
Zakaria  graduated from Belmont University, Tennessee, which is a small, private liberal arts college much like Wittenberg, and received an undergraduate degree in Philosophy. She went on to attend a joint Ph.D./J.D. program at Indiana University. In 2009, she was elected to the Board of Directors of Amnesty International. With her position of Chair of the Planning and Priorities Committee, Zakaria works with the rest of the organization to set what Amnesty International will focus on.
“I came from a place where there are a lot of human rights issues,” Zakaria said of her Pakistani nationality. She said that being a Muslim in the United States allows her to help further investigate and see the rights issues that people across the globe face.
Zakaria now writes regularly for “Dawn”, a Pakistani newspaper, but her writing can also be read in “Al Jazeera English” among other major news outlets.
“I try to highlight stories that would not otherwise be a part of the discourse,” Zakaria said of her writing. Her advice to students that want to write professionally is to go through law school, “because nothing else will train you to take every word as seriously.”

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