Two new LL.M students, Munira Akhunzada and Shamsi Maqsoudi, came to the United States just two weeks ago from Afghanistan to study law at Chapman.

Chapman’s LL.M program offers emphasis options in Business Law & Economics, International & Comparative Law, Entertainment & Media Law, and Trial Advocacy. Most foreign LL.M students study in the first two areas—but Munira and Shamsi aren’t your typical LL.M students. Both have worked as lawyers in Afghanistan and both have dedicated their lives to human rights and, more specifically, to women’s rights. Shamsi has worked for USAID Afghanistan and Munira has worked for United Nations organizations for the promotion of women and human rights.

Munira and Shamsi were selected by the US government’s Public Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan, which promotes the development of the next generation of Afghan legal scholars and judges.

“This is a very selective program,” said Chapman LL.M Professor Ron Steiner, “as there are only ten lawyers being sponsored this year.” The impetus behind the program is to give further education and opportunity to outstanding young lawyers with a strong record of working for government or public service organizations, with the ultimate aim of improving the rule of law in Afghanistan.

Both Munira and Shamsi are planning to finish in two semesters and return to Afghanistan after the conclusion of the spring semester in 2013. Both expect to return to the jobs they left, but eventually Munira hopes to be a judge and work towards promoting women and human rights, and Shamsi wants to work as a lawyer and also promote women’s rights.

“These women are courageous. Last year, the State Department sent out a press release noting that the program only had three women out of ten sponsored students from Afghanistan. This year, Chapman Law is home to two of them,” said Dean Campbell.

Last week, Chapman University President Doti came to meet and congratulate Munira and Shamsi in person.

UPDATE: After this blog posted, Shamsi, Munira and Professor Steiner were interviewed by Southern California’s NPR affiliate KPCC for a full story. Read the transcript and listen to the podcast.

Shamsi and Munira visit Washington D.C. in April 2013 for Afghan scholars gathering.

Shamsi and Munira visit Washington D.C. in April 2013 for Afghan scholars gathering.