“UC campuses rallied to host at-risk Afghan scholars fleeing the Taliban in 2021 — but can they keep them?” 

Posted February 22, 2023

February 17th, 2023 — Read how the University of California (UC) system is coordinating efforts across institutions to support at-risk scholars:

In the wake of the Taliban’s recapture of the capital city Kabul, a contingent of University of California faculty acted quickly to provide scholars in flight, like Shahrukhi, the freedom and safety to continue their work in the United States.

Jane O. Newman, a comparative literature professor, in Sept. 2021.

Jane O. Newman, a professor in UCI’s Comparative Literature department, chairs a UC-systemwide coordinating committee for Scholars at Risk.

Members of a UC systemwide steering committee of the international network Scholars at Risk, under the lead of UC Irvine literature Prof. Jane O. Newman, quickly raised funds to broker the safe passage of scholars and activists at risk of being persecuted.
University deans, provosts and chancellors responded to Newman’s urgent request for assistance, agreeing to house and employ refugees on their respective campuses on an interim basis.

Together, Newman and her colleagues raised some $321,000 to host four Afghan scholars at UC Irvine. A crowdsourcing campaign amassed another $75,000 from various sources throughout a six-week period. Afghan scholars were identified in short order and brought to California universities and institutions.

Shahba Shahrukhi, an Afghan women's rights defender, politician and scholar, Thursday on the UC Irvine campus.

Shahba Shahrukhi, an Afghan women’s rights defender, politician and psychologist, was the first of four at-risk scholars to come to UC Irvine from Afghanistan in December 2021. (Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“It was very quick — this is what happens when there’s a catastrophe in the headlines,” Newman said of the robust immediate response.

Shahrukhi, the first evacuee to arrive at UC Irvine in December 2021, found work in the university’s Gender and Sexuality Studies department. When that one-year assignment ended, the fluent Farsi speaker transitioned to Persian studies in the School of Humanities.

“I’m lucky that I got this chance,” she said. “Before the Taliban came, we had every freedom in Afghanistan, the same as the U.S. But right now, we don’t have anything.”

Read the full piece in the LA Times, reported by Sara Cardine, here.

In Categories: SAR in the Press