SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 27, 2022

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):Balkh University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Afghanistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 27, 2022, local media sources in Afghanistan reported that Taliban authorities arbitrarily dismissed 50 professors and 8 administrative and financial staff from Balkh University, apparently due to their ethnic identities as 53 of the fired individuals were non-Pashtun. The sources also alleged that the Taliban intends to replace those dismissed with clerics and members of the Taliban.

Balkh University has denied the dismissals, but stated that professors absent from the university for more than 20 days would soon be fired under the Higher Education Act. However, several Balkh University professors told Deutsche Welle that they were among those dismissed and knew of colleagues that had been dismissed as well; notably, most of these professors were abroad at the time of the dismissals. One professor, Noor Agha Sharifi, stated that the Taliban was “fomenting ethnic issues” and “trying to relocate like-minded people to the university” (translated from Pashto by Google). According to WION, the Taliban representative at the university, Abdullah Safi, was responsible for the dismissals and has already started appointing replacements.

Scholars at Risk is concerned by the mass dismissal of academic and administrative personnel, apparently due to ethnic discrimination. Governing authorities and university leadership have an obligation to refrain from discriminatory hiring practices. In addition to harm to the immediate victim, discriminatory dismissals of academic and administrative personnel undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.