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 Fern Leona Holland

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Fern Leona Holland

U.S. (Oklahoma) attorney and human rights activist killed in Iraq. Born in Bluejacket, Oklahoma, she shone socially and academically, becoming a homecoming queen and salutatorian at Miami High School, earning a B.A. in psychology at the University of Oklahoma and graduating with honors from the University of Tulsa School of Law before embarking on a successful career as an Oklahoma lawyer. Wanting to make a difference on a global level, Holland joined the Peace Corps in 2000, improved educational systems for children in Namibia and legal systems for sexually exploited refugees in Guinea before fighting for women's rights in Iraq. She labored bravely and tirelessly to set up women's centers in southern Iraq and train them in political and industrial skills, in spite of the danger she was in from those who disliked her work. On March 9, 2004, she made a routine visit to the women's center in Karbala, which she had helped set up a month before. While heading east from there back to Al-Hilla, where she was based, she was pursued by five Iraqi policemen in a van who swerved by her car and opened fire with their AK-47 machine guns, killing her and her companions: Robert Zangas, a former Marine officer who returned as a civilian to work for the coalition, and Salwa Ourmashi, her Iraqi translator and deputy. Since Fern's death, Iraqi women have sworn to continue working for their democratic equality in the same spirit that Fern Holland had displayed--with diligence and love. Holland posthumously received the Defense of Freedom Medal from the Army and the Heroic Oklahoman Award from Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, as well as a resolution from the Cherokee Nation, of which she was a member, declaring that she "died as a warrior." The legal aid center she established in Guinea was renamed The Fern Holland Legal Aid Clinic of Nzerekore.

Bio by: Jeffrey Green

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Jeffrey Green
  • Added: 4 May 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8718526
  • Jeffrey Green
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Fern Leona Holland (5 Aug 1970–9 Mar 2004), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8718526, citing Bluejacket Cemetery, Bluejacket, Craig County, Oklahoma, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .