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: October 03, 2022

Attack Types: Other

Institution(s):Balkh University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Afghanistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On October 3, 2022, Taliban forces locked women students in their dormitory on the Balkh University campus in an apparent effort to prevent them from participating in a protest.

The students’ plans to protest were in response to a suicide bombing on the Kaaj Educational Center in Kabul that left 53 dead and 110 injured (see report). The attack triggered protests by women and girls concerned about their right to education, gender discrimination, and discrimination faced by members of the Shi’a Hazara community.

During the October 3 incident, students attempting to exit the dormitory found the doors locked. Videos of the incident show students chanting, demanding their exit from the dormitory. The students reportedly broke the lock with a rock and exited to join the protest march.

Rukhshana Media reported that Taliban forces had detained one student and beat two others who attempted to join the protests; however, SAR has not obtained additional sources to confirm this.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about authorities preventing students’ from peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Afghanistan is a party. State security forces must refrain from actions intended to restrict or deter such activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, efforts to restrict or retaliate against student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.