Five days after the president abandoned the country and the Taliban occupied Kabul, the world perhaps agrees that the current development in Afghanistan is deeply concerning. Besides people fleeing for their lives, the UN’s World Food Programme is warning of famine, partly due to the unfortunate and tragic fact that there is a serious drought taking place in Afghanistan in the middle of the ongoing political crisis.
As these tragic events unfold it seems obvious that the academic world is affected and that it will most likely continue to be so. Not only due to the horrifying events of the past days, leading to human suffering and the lack of national security, but also from our previous knowledge of how Taliban regimes operate and their non-existing respect for the independence of academic institutions. The Swedish National Union of Students, SFS, and SFS International committee, Komit, believe that the right to higher education as well as the platform for research and free ideas – the whole academic world – is a fundamental part of a functioning democracy. This right is now threatened in Afghanistan.
In general, the Taliban takeover is especially affecting the situation for women at the academic institutions. Women’s right to education has strengthened during the twenty years of foreign military intervention, which has now ended and thereby brought the country into the current uncertain state. The small steps that have been taken during the years when Taliban influence was limited, are about to be undone. This was captured in the Swedish radio program P1 ”Konflikt”, aired on the Friday of last week. The radio correspondent described how a female acquaintance fled from the university in Kabul when the building was literally crumbling due to attacks. This particular day happened to be the very day when she was to receive her master’s degree. This tragic coincidence paints a descriptive picture of the situation. The woman told the journalist that for her, the worst part of her experience of the terrifying series of events was not the fear for her own life but for the future of Afghanistan.
The Swedish National Union of Students, stands in solidarity and deep compassion with all the students, researchers and academic institutions of Afghanistan. A society where women and men are denied the right to attend higher education, to educate and do research, both of which we consider as fundamental human rights, is a society without a future. Komit would like to stress the scope of the alarming situation for the students and universities of Afghanistan and the immediate as well as the long-term devastating effects it will have on the country.
SFS International committee
Linn Svärd, Henrietta Berner, Ismail Bazine and Moa Johansson