Law students and lawyers in Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the Taliban takeover. Here, a law student in Kabul offers his perspective on the recent decision by the US Fulbright Program, operated in conjunction with the US Department of State, to suspend the selection of new Fulbright Scholars from Afghanistan. For privacy and security reasons we are withholding the name and institutional affiliation of our correspondent. The text has been only lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.
Afghan students will no longer have the opportunity to apply for Fulbright Scholarships. This crushing news for many Afghan students came early Saturday from the US Department of State to Afghan applicants who had been seeking scholarships for the upcoming 2022-23 year. At a stroke, 140 students lost their opportunity of a lifetime at the very last second, and are in great despair. But that is not all; Over the many years when scholarships were awarded to bright young leaders from Afghanistan to attend university in the United States, the process has become a de facto goal among many Afghan university students. The 140 students who are now unable to collect on what they worked so much for are not alone. Students invest in themselves for many years prior to their application to be able to proceed with the scholarship award, so ultimately many more than the 140 current applicants are affected.
The Department of State has also said that the program will not continue for upcoming years as well, meaning that effectively it’s suspended for Afghans.
The current US administration paved the way for a humanitarian crisis after its disgraceful and unethical negotiations with the Taliban. To save face experts and master’s degree holders and doctorates were evacuated. Now, however, Afghanistan is on the brink of a full scale economic collapse while at the same time it is vulnerable to hostile terroristic groups. Experts and scholars are needed in Afghanistan now more than ever.
Afghans do understand that in order to reach an inclusive government that would respect women’s rights, adhere to human rights and respect freedom of press and expression for its citizens reasonable pressure points must exist and be used in a manner, but to use Afghan students and impose an educational sanction directly on Afghan students is not compatible with the spirit of a country that claims to lead the free world. Senator James William Fulbright made it possible to build international relationships through education, while providing young leaders an opportunity to be extraordinary and to be messengers of democracy and liberty who would go back to their own communities. Suspending this opportunity for an Afghanistan that needs it now more than ever is—to my mind—a disloyalty to Fulbright’s legacy.