Against All Odds, Saleema Rehman Will Not Give Up Hope

Saleema Rehman has worked hard throughout the years with one goal in mind: to fulfill her and her parents’ dream of becoming a doctor. When Saleema was born, her parents pledged to do everything in their power to educate their daughter so that she could one day become a doctor. Finding a doctor for Saleema’s mother during her illness had proved so difficult that making Saleema a doctor became their greatest goal. Circumstances, however, were not on their side. Saleema’s family fled their home in 1984 and lived as refugees in Pakistan. As a refugee and a Turkmen, one of Afghanistan’s minorities, Saleema had much to overcome. Being a girl only added to the challenges she faced.

Saleema was born in 1991 to a father who valued her just as much as her four brothers. He understood the importance of education and was therefore determined to educate all of his children. In 1994, when Barakat opened the Ersari Elementary School, Saleema’s father immediately enrolled her. Saleema completed her education at Ersari through the eighth grade and graduated in 2003. She went on to attend the Government Girl’s High School in Attock and graduated with remarkable grades. From there, Saleema attended the Government College for Women in Attock and completed the twelfth grade in 2007.

She then applied to medical school through her Afghan Commissioner Lahore. Unfortunately, She was not accepted. Saleema was devastated. She felt as though she had let down her parents. The disappointment overwhelmed her, but she refused to give up. She continued to study and applied yet again. In 2009, Saleema was accepted into the Rawalpindi Medical College.

This is a major accomplishment, not only because Saleema is a woman, but also because only one seat is reserved for refugees each year in the Rawalpindi Medical College. On December 14, 2009 Saleema filled that single seat. Saleema’s program, the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree, takes five years to complete. “I am very thankful to my Allah, the Almighty, that it seems like my parents dream will come true,” Saleema said. She is also thankful to her family and friends who have been extremely encouraging and supportive.

Saleema’s goal for the future is to serve Barakat’s students. Her father has said that he will build a clinic for her near Barakat’s Besh Kapa Surkh School in Afghanistan as there is a clear need for heath care in this community. Since Barakat was the root of Saleema’s education, she hopes to some day contribute to its growth by providing heath care to its student, their families and others in the community. “Barakat has given me eight precious years of education,” Saleema said. “That’s why I want to serve it hopefully.”