Outcry as Taliban arrests outspoken Afghan professor

Detention of Faizullah Jalal sparks protest in defence of legal scholar who publicly denounced the ruling regime

一月 10, 2022
Barbed wire on the wall in Ishkashim, Afghanistan
Source: iStock

A leading Afghan academic who made public appearances criticising the Taliban was arrested in Kabul, prompting outcry.  

Kabul University law professor Faizullah Jalal was reportedly detained by members of Afghanistan’s ruling regime on 8 January after a Twitter account purporting to be him made comments insulting Taliban leaders on social media.  

Professor Jalal, who teaches at one of the country’s top institutions, was already under scrutiny for having appeared in numerous interviews since the Taliban took power after the fall of the US-backed government in August. In them, he criticised the regime and the country’s deteriorating financial situation.

His arrest comes amid a crackdown on academic freedom and freedom of speech in Afghanistan, with staff and students afraid to return to campuses there.

Afghan students previously told Times Higher Education that education there has become untenable. Those few who were able to resume attending courses said that classrooms are at a fraction of their capacity since the Taliban takeover. Thousands of students – especially women – have turned to online education.

The country also faces a worsening humanitarian crisis, with reports of already widespread food shortages and more cold winter months ahead. But Afghanistan’s current government has shown little tolerance for criticism of its rule.

A spokesman for the Taliban reportedly told the news site Al Jazeera that Professor Jalal’s arrest was meant to be an example “so that others don’t make similar senseless comments in the name of being a professor or scholar that harm the dignity of others”.

In images and videos shared on social media, women in Kabul could be seen protesting the arrest, which is notable for its public nature and given Professor Jalal’s prominent position. In 2004, the academic’s wife ran against former president Hamid Karzai, becoming Afghanistan’s first woman candidate for the presidency.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International condemned the arrest and called on the Taliban to “immediately and unconditionally release” Professor Jalal.




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