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: January 31, 2023

Attack Types: Imprisonment


Region & Country:Southern Asia | Afghanistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 31, 2023, Taliban forces reportedly arrested Zakaria Osuli, a university professor, writer, and researcher.

Osuli had recently published two books, one about Ahmad Shah Massoud, an anti-Taliban commander in the 1990s, and another on the Doha Agreement signed by the Taliban and the United States government in February 2020, which sought to reduce violence, secure the withdrawal of foreign troops within 14 months, the beginning of negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, and secure counterterrorism assurances from the Taliban.

The circumstances surrounding the arrest are unclear. Osuli’s whereabouts and the charges he faces, if any, are unknown.

Since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, Taliban forces have arrested a number of academics, activists, and journalists, including journalism professor Ismail Mashal (see report), professor and political analyst Sayed Baqir Mohsini (see report), and Kabul University lecturer and political commentator Faizullah Jalal (see report).

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the apparently arbitrary arrest of a scholar. Absent further evidence of wrongdoing, this arrest suggests an effort to retaliate against or deter academic work or views — 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 authorities must respect academic freedom and nonviolent expressive conduct and refrain from actions intended to punish, restrict, or deter such conduct. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)