Afghan research scholars, home due to pandemic, stare at uncertainty as Taliban takes over

Three Afghan research scholars of Central University of Kerala are hopeful of returning to the university to complete their coursework and research.  

45-year-old Mohammed Kazem left for Kabul in Afghanistan a year ago, just before the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed in India. He has been trying to return to the country to complete his course — research work in the linguistics department — at the Central University of Kerala (CUK) in Kasaragod since.

With the Taliban capturing Kabul and their regime in Afghanistan set to be re-established, his hopes of returning to India to complete the course seems bleak. Hopes of three other Afghan students of CUK are similarly dashed.

“Our life is very uncertain and we are not sure how safe we are after Taliban have taken over the capital,” said Mr. Kazem, in a phone conversation with The Hindu from Kabul. He said he was yet to submit his thesis and other course work and had been desperately trying to return to the university. Owing to the COVID-19 situation, his return had not been possible so far. “But now, the change in regime in Afghanistan, overtaken by the Taliban has made things uncertain,” he added.

Mr. Kazem said the Indian embassy in Kabul had closed down three days ago and that there was no means of communication with them.

“To return to India, I need the electronic number to get a passport to India. But it is complete chaos now,” he said, adding, “we are not getting proper information even on TV. Only Islamic series are being telecast here.”

“Even shops are not fully open and only a few people are outside their homes,” he said.

‘No way of continuing research’

“We are scared, terrified and feeling hopeless, finding it difficult to even grieve,” said 33-year-old Ali Maisam, another research student in the linguistics department.

Mr. Maisam, in India since 2013, is the first member of his family to study abroad. He, too, returned to Kabul just before the coronavirus-induced lockdown was implemented in India. His efforts of trying to return to the university, like Mr. Kazem’s, failed.

He was denied permission to return to India by the Indian embassy some months back. The embassy officials sought a bonafide letter from the university, he said, which the university did not provide.

Mr. Maisam said there was no way of continuing his research in Afghanistan now, as there was no electricity and internet connection.

He said the areas captured by the Taliban were worse off and sought the international community’s help in ensuring peace.

‘Hopeful that peace will be restored’

Another research scholar Ghulam Mohammad Payman said he felt dreadful, but was hopeful that the situation would change and peace would be restored.

“We are hopeful that things will normalise soon. But whatever the situation, I would definitely want to return to India and complete my research,” he said.

Many students from the Hazra ethnic group and other minority communities studying abroad refused to speak, expressing fear of persecution if their identity was revealed.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 2:11:20 PM |

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