Concern for science and research in Afghanistan following authorities’ ban on women from higher education

On the UN International Day of Education, ISC Governing Board Members, ISC Members and Fellows call attention to suspension of women’s education in Afghanistan

The ISC’s Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science (CFRS) is actively monitoring the state of science and research in Afghanistan.

In December 2022, the Afghanistan authorities decreed that higher education for women in Afghanistan would be suspended until further notice. As highlighted in the ISC’s recent Statement urging a reversal of the ban, education is a human right and a fundamental prerequisite for peace and sustainable development. The Council notes with deep concern that this recent escalation in the Afghanistan’s approach to education effectively prevents half the country’s population from learning and participating in science. This represents a severe violation of the ISC’s Principle of Freedom and Responsibility in Science and presents an existential threat to the integrity of Afghanistan’s science systems and culture. Unable to conduct their research in the face of such overwhelmingly regressive and misogynistic restrictions, and for fear of persecution, many academics and scientists are forced to flee resulting in a loss of research and education. The global scientific community must act to preserve the talent and expertise held by displaced Afghan researchers.

Please sign and share the Science in Exile Declaration to show your support.

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Statements, offers of assistance and resources on the scholars in Afghanistan

The ISC will endeavour to update this list regularly.

To mark this year’s UN International Day of Education we invited ISC Governing Board Members, ISC Members and Fellows to comment on the crisis and its implications.

Comments:

Motoko Kotani

ISC Vice President for Science and Society, ISC Fellow

“All members of society have an equal role in cultivating the next generation, and no community can effectively progress when half of the population is deliberately kept back.

Ideas and innovation can only thrive when there are opposing views to push objective research and evolve academic discussions. It is important to remember that female scientists are behind some of history’s most important scientific discourses and discoveries, as well as progressive social movements. The works of Marie Curie, Jennifer Doudna, Maryam Mirzakhani and Rachel Carson, are among many, many women who have not only changed, but improved the world we live in.

The international academic community stands with Afghan women, and believes that everyone, regardless of gender, has the right to participate in the development of their community and the improvement of the world at large.”


Salim Abdool Karim

ISC Vice-President for Outreach and Engagement 2022-2024, ISC Fellow

“A well-known African proverb captures the central importance of the education of women in society, “If you educate a man, you educate one person. If you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” The morally reprehensible actions of the current government of Afghanistan in prohibiting the education of women directly undermines the future prosperity of the country.”


Karly Kehoe

Member of the Standing Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science 2022-2025, Member of the Steering Committee for the Science in Exile project, Global Young Academy

“At this moment, when the women and girls of Afghanistan are being denied the right to education, it falls to the rest of us to move mountains. As researchers who are committed to the common good, we must lobby our governments, our universities, and our school systems to make space for those whose futures are being stolen. This means pushing hard for fellowships, scholarships, student visas, accessible online learning tools, open access to research, and, if necessary, one-on-one teaching. We must stand for equality and support the women and girls of Afghanistan.”


Encieh Erfani

Researcher at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Italy, ISC Fellow, Global Young Academy

“Fundamentally, the Taliban do not value girls and women, so talking about their rights makes no sense to them. They also do not value education, as they themselves are not educated, even to the point of being unable to read the Quran, which they claim to obey. Banning women from education (bearing in mind that secondary education for girls had already been banned) and from working will: cause girls to be forced to marry and become pregnant at very young ages; prevent women from receiving medical treatment, as men cannot treat them under the Taliban; and make it virtually impossible for female heads of households to provide for their families. The consequences of the Taliban’s inhumane rule are far-reaching, almost beyond imagination. This is a chilling example of where the marginalisation of women can lead, and a disaster for women’s rights, for children’s rights, for public health, and for the basic functioning of Afghanistan’s society.”


Dr. Saja Al Zoubi

Lecturer and Researcher, Global Development Studies, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Gender and Livelihood expert to the EU delegation to Syria, Steering Committee member of the ISC Science in Exile Project, Co-leader of Global Young Academy (GYA) At Risk Scholars initiative.

”Education is not gendered in Islam, global efforts should be deployed to defeat Taliban pretext. Afghan women are strong and will be stronger with all of us.”

Three actions you can do today:

  1. Visit our action and support page and share your statements of support
  2. Sign the Science in Exile Declaration
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Disclaimer: Each organization is responsible for the facts and opinions expressed in this content, which are not necessarily those of the ISC or its partner organizations. 

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