‘I don’t want to die.’ Afghan researchers fear for their safety—and the future of science

Posted August 20, 2021

A piece by Richard Stone for Science Magazine covering the safety of academics in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.

Twice the Taliban tried to kill Khyber Mashal*. Its first attempt was in 2009, when the Afghan scientist was working on a development project for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Gardez, a city in southeastern Afghanistan. Taliban fighters planted a bomb below his office, but Mashal was away on a short trip to Germany. Five colleagues—four Afghans and the office’s Nepalese security chief—died in the blast, he says. Then in July 2019, when Mashal was working for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education, a suicide bomber staggered in front of his car in Kabul. “He seemed intoxicated,” he says. A quick-thinking police officer tased the man and removed his explosives-laden vest.

Why is the Taliban so eager to take him out? “Because they’re antiscience,” Mashal says. “Educated people are targeted because we have transformed the country.” His past affiliation with a U.S. organization added to the jeopardy. Mashal left Afghanistan with his wife in December 2020 for a yearlong fellowship at a German university. Now, after the Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover of the country, many other scientists are trying to join the exodus—and their colleagues overseas are trying to help.

Read more here.

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