Afghan students in the US under Fulbright scholarship fear returning to their Taliban-ruled country. Here's why

The terms of the scholarship mandate that students return to their home countries after completing the programme. Afghan students claim there has been no word frrom the officials on their status
The Taliban toppled the Afghan government and established their rule in the country in August, 2021 | Pic: Flickr
The Taliban toppled the Afghan government and established their rule in the country in August, 2021 | Pic: Flickr

Many Afghan students studying in United States universities through scholarship programmes say they are unable to return home as it endangers their lives under the current Taliban regime, according to a media report.

In the last academic year, more than 100 Afghan students availed the Fulbright scholarship programme. As per the terms of this scholarship, students are required to return to their home countries at the end of their academic programmes however much has changed in their home country now and the Afghan students are fearful of their safety, the Voice of America (VOA) reported.

Some of these students arrived just days before the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan. As the conflict kept brewing the US embassy in Kabul was also closed. Maryam Rayed, who left Afghanistan last August to pursue a Master's degree in Democracy and Governance at Georgetown University in Washington, told VOA, "I have come to terms with the reality that going back to my beloved Afghanistan and working there is no longer possible."

Spokespeople at the Department of State and the Institute of International Education, which administers the Fulbright programme, could not confirm to VOA whether there was a plan to waive the Fulbright requirement for the Afghan students to return to their home country after their studies are completed.

Another Afghan, Ahmad Raheb Radfar, who worked as a foreign service officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until August 2021 for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, went to the US to study International Affairs at the State University of New York in Albany.

He said, "My plan was to return to Afghanistan and resume my work at the ministry upon the completion of my program. But now, given the current situation of Afghanistan, I cannot do that. We have been in touch with the (Fulbright) programme administrators and have shared our concerns with them, but so far, they have not offered any assurance about our future," said Radfar.

Quite a few Afghans have helped the US in Afghanistan or had an affiliation with the US before Kabul fell to the Taliban. The US, out of fear that the Taliban would target these individuals, evacuated tens of thousands of these Afghans. There is no US Embassy in Afghanistan to process visas, and travel from the country is extremely restricted and complex.

"We are reviewing the significant safety, logistical, and programmatic constraints which must be overcome to successfully implement the 2022-23 Fulbright Programme. We are committed to remaining in communication with the semi-finalist group about the status of the programme, understanding they must pursue the choices that make the most sense for themselves and their families," a US State Department official told VOA.

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