Afghanistan’s Educational Exodus: How Taliban Policies Are Driving Professors Overseas Features
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Afghanistan’s Educational Exodus: How Taliban Policies Are Driving Professors Overseas

Following the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, more than 400 academic staff and professors from various universities across the country, holding master’s and doctorate degrees, resigned from their positions or left Afghanistan due to the stringent policies of the Taliban.

These dedicated individuals had worked diligently for years to obtain high academic qualifications with the aim of contributing to the progress and peace of their nation, serving the young generation. Regrettably, with the rise of the Taliban, they have forsaken their aspirations of serving their homeland and sought safety elsewhere.

The primary reasons for their departure are as follows:

Taliban Interference in University Affairs:

The Taliban decreed that all hiring and firing of academic staff in universities should be under their direct supervision. Instead of experienced professors, they appointed their own fighters, lacking academic credentials, to key positions based on their combat experience. Last year, during a meeting with academic officials in a western province of Afghanistan, Nada Mohammad Nadim, Acting Minister of Higher Education of the Taliban government, proclaimed that fighters deserve academic privileges based on their combat roles. He even asserted that scientific points would be awarded based on the number of mines detonated by a Taliban member in the last two decades.

Moreover, in a letter sent to university professors on May 27, 2023, the Ministry of Higher Education of the Taliban insisted that professors should be fluent in both Dari and Pashto languages and avoid using words foreign to Afghan culture and society. Professors and researchers were also warned not to criticize or oppose the ruling system to avoid potential problems.

Restrictions on Women’s Education:

Initially, the Taliban permitted female students to continue their studies at universities but imposed severe restrictions on them. They segregated classes by gender, forbidding male professors from teaching female students, considering such a method contrary to their extremist Islamic beliefs. However, on December 20, 2022, an official decree from the Taliban prohibited Afghan women and girls from pursuing higher education, leading to widespread condemnation from the United Nations and other international organizations. Many professors chose to resign in solidarity with female students.

Notably, Ismail Mashal, a university professor, publicly tore up his academic credentials on live television, stating that those documents had lost their value when the education of their sisters and daughters was no longer allowed.

Suppression of Academics and Writers:

The Taliban leadership shows no regard for democracy and human rights, resorting to violence against anyone who dares to criticize or oppose their system. For instance, Zakaria Usoli, a Kabul University professor, was arrested in Doha for writing a book about the Taliban’s agreements with the U.S. and was imprisoned by the Taliban for two months. Ismail Mashal, who supported female education and advocated free books for girls, faced arrest by the Taliban and suffered torture during his three-month imprisonment.

As a result of these factors, the educated class of Afghanistan, including university professors, no longer feels safe in their homeland and perceives their lives to be in danger, compelling them to seek refuge outside the country.

While the Taliban leaders bemoan the brain drain from Afghanistan, they take no concrete steps to instill confidence and security in their citizens, including academics, poets, and writers. Their restrictive policies include segregating mixed-gender classes, eliminating topics such as human rights and democracy from the curriculum, as they view them as Western concepts conflicting with their beliefs.

Ironically, the Acting Minister of Higher Education of the Taliban recently urged professors and researchers from other countries to come to Afghanistan and teach Afghan students, albeit under the group’s control, during an international meeting in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan. Mr. Nadim also requested foreign countries to provide education for Afghan students in their own territories.

This feature was authored by an Afghan legal scholar whose identity cannot currently be revealed due to threats to their security.