Imagine Being a Professor or Student at the American University of Afghanistan

I am distressed by the images coming out of Afghanistan. One could, of course, make the argument that the U.S. military and its allies never should have gone into the country in the first place (a position with which I sympathize), but once in, that triggered a solemn obligation to the people of Afghanistan to protect them. So much for duty and responsibility.

There is any number of groups in Afghan society that are likely to suffer from this foreign policy and national security debacle. Most obviously, women and girls will be forcibly ejected from work and education and made to cover themselves in public so as not to sexually arouse men. Political and religious moderates will be coerced into extremist fundamentalism. University students, whose hearts and souls are typically filled with rebellion, will be attacked for their youthful love of freedom.

Imagine being a professor or student at the American University of Afghanistan. Very few of us here in the West can grasp the sheer horror that they face at this very moment. The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) was founded in Kabul in 2006. It has nearly 2,000 students and hosts the International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development.

The tragic fate of students and faculty at the American University of Afghanistan should put our own “first world problems” into perspective. While conservatives on campus rail against “cancel culture” and progressives complain about pronouns, it behooves us all to stop and reflect on what campus life is like in Kabul at the moment.

“The tragic fate of students and faculty at the American University of Afghanistan should put our own “first world problems” into perspective.”

Imagine, if you will, armed men kicking in your dorm room door in the middle of the night, rounding up the men, blindfolding them, and binding their hands behind their backs. The lucky ones are severely beaten and released. The unlucky ones are tortured and killed, their young lives cut short because they dared to study at an American university. The women face a fate even worse than death itself. Some will become sex slaves and domestic servants, never to see their families again. Just because the horrors of murder, enslavement, and mass rape do not occur on Western campuses does not mean that they do not occur.

I’m not saying that we don’t have a right to combat what we perceive as oppression here in the West. Indeed, not only do we have that right, we also have that obligation. The minute we stop fighting for what we believe is right, we risk our own society and government descending into tyranny, much like Afghanistan.

What I am saying is that our struggles should always be situated in a wider context. It’s important to realize that no matter how bad our lives seems, others have it far worse. I am also saying that we should be ashamed of the fact that the U.S. government has forsaken its obligation to the people of Afghanistan in general, and to the students and faculty at the American University of Afghanistan in particular.

Professor Andrew R. Timming

This article is published under a Creative Commons 4.0 License.

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