Since 1987, Susannah Sirkin has served as deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an NGO that mobilizes health professionals and uses the integrity of science to stop mass atrocities and human rights violations.
She has organized investigations in dozens of countries; these include documenting genocide and systematic rape in Darfur, Sudan, as well as the exhumations of mass graves in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda for the International Criminal Tribunals.
The daughter of a career foreign-service officer, Sirkin witnessed extreme poverty during elementary school in India and experienced life under a military dictatorship as a high-school student in Greece. She majored in European studies at Mount Holyoke College and credits her love of languages and international studies with developing her passion for human rights.
After graduation, Sirkin earned a master’s degree in education from Boston University and later taught English to refugees from the former Soviet Union, Cambodia, and Vietnam. That experience led her to Amnesty International where she worked as director of membership programs for almost four years before joining newly founded PHR.
PHR is one of the six original nongovernmental organizations that launched the International Campaign to Ban Landmines in 1992. From 1992 to 2001, Sirkin represented PHR on the Coordination Committee of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a corecipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Peace. More recently, she helped lead PHR’s successful efforts to free two Iranian doctors with expertise in HIV/AIDS treatment who were falsely imprisoned in Tehran.