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 09, 2024

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Roshan Afghanistan Online University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Afghanistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 9, 2024, Taliban forces detained Javed Kakar, Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs at Roshan Afghanistan Online University (RAO), apparently because of his academic work supporting women’s education.

RAO opened in December 2022 to provide access to free online university education, with a focus on reaching Afghan women. The establishment of the university was a response to the Taliban authorities’ ban on women’s higher education, announced on December 20.

Taliban intelligence forces arrested Kakar near the Ministry of Higher Education in Kabul and reportedly transferred him to the Taliban security headquarters, also in Kabul. According to RAO leadership, Kakar reported that Taliban forces searched his phone, tortured, and interrogated him about ROA funding and affiliations.

On January 26, two weeks after his arrest, Kakar was released, reportedly after guaranteeing he would cease working at RAO. A university statement confirmed that Kakar had been released on bail, and that he had resigned from his role at the university. The university privately stated that the university’s leadership had also resigned, and that Kakar and other members of the leadership remain at risk.

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.