Do one’s bit

This week’s invitation by the Norwegian government to talks with the Taliban leadership has prompted a range of questions. Is this necessary in order to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe? Do these talks legitimize a deeply undemocratic government?

Regardless, the situation in Afghanistan is deeply engaging and I want to highlight the effort that universities in Sweden are making to try to contribute to the situation. Before Christmas, Sweden’s government agency for development cooperation (Sida) decided to fund a national support program for researchers from Afghanistan. Behind that initiative is Scholars at Risk (SAR) Sweden, which is coordinated by the University of Gothenburg.

When the Taliban took power in the country in August last year, it had devastating consequences for students and staff at the country’s universities. Subject areas and entire research disciplines are at risk because they are not accepted by the Taliban. But also because national funding has been shattered. International SARs has received applications for support from over 1,500 researchers in the country. This led to an appeal to SAR members to offer Afghan researchers a sanctuary at their universities.

SAR Sweden complied with this, with Sida committed to giving financial support to a program, which 2022-2024 will give around 10 researchers a temporary refuge at one of the 22 Swedish universities, which are members of Scholars at Risk.

Although it is a limited effort, it gives some hope that the research community can be preserved and can continue to develop in a democratic Afghanistan in the future.

Read more: Researchers from Afghanistan get academic sanctuaries in Sweden