We are launching the Afghanistan Project (AP), an ambitious new initiative of the Center for Governance and Markets (CGM), a global policy research center at the University of Pittsburgh. The Project provides an intellectual and physical home to scholars and policy thinkers who have had to leave Afghanistan after the US withdrawal and subsequent Taliban takeover of the country.
After 2001, a new generation in Afghanistan grabbed ahold of newfound academic freedom and freedom of association to create a vibrant community, characterized by inspiring and vociferous debate and rigorous research. Together these scholars built a world of ideas. In a heartbeat, that vibrant community lost the freedoms that sustained them when the Taliban returned to power. Our project preserves this community and fosters it for the future.
The Afghanistan Project is led by scholars from Afghanistan. We commence our work today with the arrival of Professor Omar Sadr, who has been one of Afghanistan’s leading voices on political reform, constitutionalism, and pluralism. He has served as assistant professor of Political Science at the American University of Kabul and is the author of Negotiating Cultural Diversity in Afghanistan (Routledge, 2020). Three more scholars will be joining our project in the coming weeks. Two of these scholars are negotiating their escape from Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Project builds on a dynamic group of thinkers and doers led by scholars and researchers from Afghanistan. It also draws strength from our Afghanistan Asylum Task Force, that at its height this fall was led by almost 100 volunteers in support of more than 6,000 Afghanistan citizens seeking asylum in the US after the sudden fall of Kabul.
As a center devoted to the study of communities, we recognize that community-engaged scholarship does not happen from sitting behind a desk, but is the product of the people and the ideas around us. The Afghanistan Project will be a platform to craft academic work, a hub for research and ideas on Afghanistan bringing scholars here to Pittsburgh, but also connecting them virtually to those around the world. The intellectual flame cannot and will not be extinguished.
The Afghanistan Project was able to come together quickly because of generous support from our community. We are grateful to the support of the Scholar Rescue Fund at the International Institute for Education. At the University of Pittsburgh, we are indebted to the support of the PiNTs program at the Center for Global Studies at the University Center for International Studies, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and the Office of the Provost. We are also thankful to a generous anonymous gift that allowed us to quickly begin to bring scholars from Afghanistan directly to Pittsburgh. None of this would be possible without the generous support of so many students, staff, and faculty at the University of Pittsburgh who have offered to support and mentor these scholars as they embark on a difficult and often painful new journey.
Our announcement today conveys our progress and recognition that this is only the beginning. We have the capacity to host many more scholars here in Pittsburgh. We are asking you to join with us and consider donating to help us support more scholars—and sustain this important community–in the months and years to come.
You can read more about the project here.
Director, Center for Governance and Markets
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs