Final August, when U.S. troops left Afghanistan, tons of of Afghans had been attending U.S.-funded faculties. The aim was to assist Afghan college students get a high-quality training, both in Afghanistan or one other nation equivalent to Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon and Morocco. A lot of the college students getting a U.S.-backed school training had been ladies.
Then the Taliban took management, and the scholars at the moment are scrambling to determine what to do subsequent.
A few of the college students received out. Some are nonetheless residing in Afghanistan, the place they worry their U.S.-linked training places them in danger. Others are away attending school in different international locations however stay not sure about the place they’ll go once they graduate.
The state of affairs is particularly dire for the tons of of scholars at American College of Afghanistan (AUAF) who’ve been left behind. Their ties to the USA put them in grave hazard, and their training can be being disrupted. They really feel deserted and terrified. Regardless of college guarantees, college students mentioned they really feel college authorities have finished little to assist them.
“Who can be held accountable if extra of us are killed by the Taliban?” mentioned Saeed, a scholar who stays in Kabul and who requested to make use of a pseudonym on account of security issues. “It’s a matter of life and demise.”
The AUAF was established in 2006 because the nation’s first personal establishment to teach Afghans with high-quality, American-style liberal arts training, and is funded by the USA.
It grew to become a goal of the Taliban. In August 2016, Taliban terrorists stormed the campus, killing a minimum of 13 college students and employees members and injuring one other 30. That very same 12 months, an American professor and an Australian professor from the college had been kidnapped and detained for three years.
Taliban militants took over the campus final August after they seized Kabul. One of many Taliban militants concerned posted on his Facebook that its college students had been wolves in sheep’s clothes who had been skilled by the USA to deprave Muslims.
Saeed needed to depart Afghanistan then. He was amongst practically 600 AUAF college students, staffers and households set to be airlifted overseas that month. However the evacuation hit a snag, and their buses had been despatched again after hours of driving across the metropolis and ready to entry the airport gates.
Saeed mentioned he acquired an electronic mail from college officers later that day saying “there can be no extra rescue flights,” leaving him with no means overseas.
A month later, Saeed mentioned college officers advised him he might go research in Qatar, the place the AUAF is within the means of establishing a satellite tv for pc campus.
Saeed was hopeful, however nothing has occurred but. He mentioned that college students have additionally been advised there are inadequate funds to relocate them, and that as a substitute they’re taking lessons on-line.
Some 370 AUAF college students had been nonetheless in Afghanistan as of November, CNN reported on the time.
Saeed is especially afraid to stay within the nation after a Taliban gunman killed an AUAF scholar, Zainab Abdulahi, at a checkpoint in west Kabul at midnight in January. Taliban home searches and mysterious killings are additionally contributing to his nervousness.
“The AUAF president promised us that 100 college students can be moved by the tip of October, however that didn’t occur,” Saeed mentioned. “We had been assured once more that 100 college students can be relocated by the tip of November and one other 100 in 2022. None of those guarantees have been stored.”
AUAF President Ian Bickford didn’t reply to HuffPost’s request for touch upon the matter.
Earlier than the Taliban takeover, some AUAF college students had acquired absolutely funded scholarships from the U.S. State Division, whereas others had been self-funded or acquired some monetary support. Following the takeover, the varsity waived tuition for all college students, together with Saeed.
The State Division plans to relocate students to Qatar’s Schooling Metropolis as quickly as doable, a division spokesperson advised HuffPost, including that it’s “been in common communication with the American College of Afghanistan directors about efforts to relocate the remaining college students and employees, together with non-scholarship college students, nonetheless in Afghanistan.” Nevertheless, the division didn’t share particulars of those efforts on account of security and operational concerns.
After the chaotic U.S. airlift final August, relocation operations continued by early December 2021 however have since been stalled for a number of months on account of an absence of settlement between the U.S. authorities and the Taliban, leaving tens of hundreds of Afghans who worry Taliban reprisal behind.
About 450 AUAF college students had made it out of Afghanistan as of November and had been dispersed around the globe, Bickford told CNN on the time. Solely 50 of these college students have made it to the USA, and some of them are enrolled at Bard School, a personal liberal arts school in New York.
Round 100 of the scholars now attend the American College of Iraq, Sulaimani, whereas about 100 others attend the American College of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Nonetheless others have made their solution to international locations equivalent to Pakistan and Turkey however are ready for the chance to relocate elsewhere.
Even Afghan college students already attending college overseas face an unclear future.
Greater than 330 Afghan college students are finding out on full scholarships funded by the U.S. State Division’s Bureau of South and Central Asia Affairs and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Almost 90% of the State Division’s Afghan undergraduate scholarships are given to feminine college students, the division spokesperson advised HuffPost.
Along with the AUAF, a substantial variety of these Afghan scholarship recipients attend universities in Kyrgyzstan, Morocco and Lebanon. Round 100 different college students just lately relocated to Iraq.
Hasan, who’s finishing his undergraduate research on the American College of Iraq, Sulaimani, within the Kurdistan area of Iraq, mentioned he wonders what he’ll do when he graduates later this 12 months.
Hasan, who’s being referred to utilizing a psuedonym on account of security issues, was one of many lucky AUAF college students who made it out of Afghanistan in October 2021. Whereas he’s grateful for the chance to finish his training as a regulation main, he’s involved about having to return house after commencement.
“We’ve been branded as infidels and pawns of the West,” Hasan mentioned, including, “My regulation diploma can be ineffective underneath the Taliban’s sharia-based authorized system, and I see no future for my profession in Afghanistan.”
Nilufar Payanda is an Afghan senior majoring in human rights on the American College of Central Asia in Bishkek. In June, she’s going to get her diploma. Payanda mentioned she needed to return to Afghanistan and work in her chosen area, however these hopes had been shattered by the Taliban takeover.
“I made a decision to review human rights as a result of I used to be passionate in regards to the topic and needed to work for one of many United Nations businesses in Afghanistan,” she mentioned.
Now, she’s caught in a bind: What is going to occur in three months, and the place ought to she go? Returning house is out of the query, however remaining in Bishkek has its personal set of obstacles. After she graduates, her visa will expire and her stipend can be minimize off.
Payanda mentioned her scholarship coordinator suggested her to contemplate making use of for a grasp’s program in the USA or elsewhere, however that’s not a viable choice for her in the intervening time on account of time and monetary constraints. She is trying into the potential of acquiring a scholarship for a grasp’s diploma on the identical college. This, if it occurs, would lengthen her keep in Bishkek for one more two years, giving her sufficient time to plan for her future.
“I want I wasn’t a senior scholar in order that I might need extra time to determine my destiny after commencement,” Payanda mentioned.
One choice for college kids is to resettle in the USA as refugees. Those that have acquired a scholarship from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul may be eligible for Precedence One refugee referrals. The State Division spokesperson advised HuffPost that many college students have already been referred for resettlement underneath the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
However the course of is prolonged and doesn’t assure resettlement in the USA. It would take 12 to 18 months, which isn’t sensible for Nilufar and Hasan, who’re about to graduate.
“Given the distinctive circumstances, now we have been exploring choices for a way greatest to help these college students who will graduate,” the State Division spokesperson advised HuffPost. “We’re working with our cooperating college companions to encourage graduating Afghan college students to use for graduate research packages overseas, together with in the USA.”
Whereas nonsenior college students have extra time to determine a path ahead, it has not been simple for them, both. Hajar Rahimi, a sophomore majoring in political science on the American College of Beirut, feels distracted and despondent at occasions when she thinks about her future.
Rahimi mentioned many college students have switched their majors from politics to psychology or enterprise as a result of they know they will be unable to return to their homeland — and even when they do, there can be no place for them in Afghan politics. She was among the many few college students who didn’t change their fields of research.
“I nonetheless love my main,” she mentioned.
Her mother and father name once in a while to examine if there was any information about her destiny as soon as she finishes her research, however she has no reply but. Whereas they miss her, they advise her to not return for the reason that state of affairs for younger ladies underneath the Taliban has deteriorated.
Whereas Hajar’s future stays unknown, she longs to return house and reside in peace along with her household once more.
“I’ll by no means lose religion that issues will change in Afghanistan and that we will return sometime,” she mentioned.