Placement, preservation and perseverance: Afghan at-risk scholars, activists and students
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in August 2021, accompanied by the withdrawal of the international military presence, generated a humanitarian and political disaster that is likely to last for years. Attacks on universities, colleges and civil society organizations, as well as individual scholars and human rights defenders, threaten academic freedom, the preservation of past and current local knowledge, and the opportunity for future knowledge production by the wider Afghan society. In the months since, the perspectives of the country’s thought leaders, many of whom had to flee the country, have for the most part been absent from discussions about the country’s political future and the prospects for inclusion, gender equality and human rights. Most commentary on these issues has largely emerged from foreign and Western voices, not Afghan voices.
Recognizing this gap, this project aims to enable Afghan ‘At-Risk Scholars and Activists’ (ASAs) in the diaspora, and particularly those in Canada, to contribute to building a future vision for their country. The project will mobilize new knowledge that contributes to building a future vision for Afghanistan that is inclusive, gender-sensitive and respectful of human rights and the dignity of all. The project will also contribute to informing research, policy, practice and international debates about how best to respond to the humanitarian, political and developmental crises in Afghanistan in the short and medium term. While the focus on this project is on Afghanistan, its lessons could apply to similar contexts in the future.
The project will coordinate the hosting of the ASAs by various Canadian universities and institutions and provide them with mentoring and direct research support. It will also directly engage with hundreds of other ASAs in Canada and the diaspora through networks of knowledge that include Afghan students in universities in Canada and elsewhere.