UC Irvine works to bring at-risk Afghan academics fleeing danger to campus and safety
As Afghans flee their home countries in search of a safe port, following the recent takeover of the capital Kabul by Taliban forces, universities embark on a rescue mission to bring in the academics and their families on California college campuses.
A local effort is underway at UC Irvine, where administrators across campus have pledged $ 250,000 to help academics, lawyers, artists and journalists continue their work in places of refuge.
Led by comparative literature professor Jane O. Newman, the campaign includes a local crowdsourcing component that seeks an additional $ 150,000 in community matching funds. The UCI Emergency Response Fund in Afghanistan raised nearly $ 40,000 on Friday.
“There are a lot of Afghan academics, especially women academics, who have obtained a doctorate in the last 20 years, and they have grown up with that possibility, but now they are not allowed to do so,” Newman said in an interview. Wednesday. “If we just abandon these people, what do we think will happen to the United States in the world? “
Newman chairs a unified communications system-wide coordinating committee for Scholars at risk (SAR), an international network of institutions and individuals who work to promote academic freedom, in part, by arranging temporary academic positions at member universities and colleges.
In recent years, many international academics have been invited to participate in the UCI, where they have continued their research, lectured and engaged students in law, international studies and other disciplines.
In addition to simply seeking refuge, Newman said, participants have the opportunity to continue their work, while also enriching the campuses that host them and, more broadly, higher education itself.
Protecting and housing academics fleeing risk is also a way to safeguard the future of higher education in countries that could otherwise suffer huge setbacks as a result of the persecution, imprisonment and death of these people. .
Newman said a classic example of the impact of scholarship preservation is the international effort undertaken after World War II, when German Jewish academics were recruited and made enormous contributions across disciplines.
“They are the future of their country,” she said of the need to protect these emigrants. “If we want to make this world a safer place around the world, we have to invest in higher education everywhere. “
The estimated cost of hosting a single academic, including salary, benefits, accommodation, and in some cases travel and visa assistance, is around $ 100,000. If the UCI’s crowdfunding target is met, the Irvine campus could accommodate at least three people in the coming years.
“If we can take advantage of these various things on 10 campuses, we have 10 or 20 academics, right?” Newman said, referring to similar efforts at other UC campuses, such as UCLA, Berkeley and Santa Cruz.
To attend the community effort is Sadaf Doost, a third-year law student at UC Irvine and an American Afghan whose parents left their own education and livelihood to flee their homeland in the 1980s during the Soviet invasion.
Doost has since worked closely on human rights issues and volunteered to help Afghan, Syrian and Turkish refugees. She recently helped establish Global Advocates for Afghanistan, an initiative that aims to mobilize international advocacy efforts for evacuation and resettlement.
“Education is liberation – this is something my parents and many Afghan and refugee parents in general have really sacrificed, so that their children can have an education and have this autonomy in our lives. ”Doost said.
“Fighting for the Afghan people at the institutional level sends a message to the UC system and other universities,” she continued. “It encourages others to use educational and institutional spaces to advocate for the people in Afghanistan. “
Scholars at Risk and the Institute of International Education’s Scholarship Rescue Fund providing case managers, who perform risk assessments, review resumes and review letters of recommendation to ensure refugees are legitimate, high performing academics and genuinely at risk, Newman said.
With the help of a rich and growing membership network, Scholars at Risk annually provides sanctuary and assistance to approximately 300 academics and other civil society actors from and to countries around the world.
UCI Law Professor David Kaye, who served at the United Nations as Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, has worked with SAR on related issues academic freedom and so appealed to Newman when he heard about the campus. campaign.
As the latest efforts are made urgently, in response to rapidly evolving situations abroad, Kaye said he hopes UC campuses like the UCI can take a broader view and do of this assistance an integral part of the university system and to create regular funding to keep scientists safe.
“[The University of California system] is one of the leading academic institutions in California, if not the country, ”he added. “For us, defending human rights and the rights of academics, artists and journalists across borders is the kind of position we need to take. “
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