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AUW Celebrates Arrival of 171 Afghan Students on Campus

Posted on February 28, 2022

Written by AUW

Afghans at AUW have always been and will remain equal citizens with students from the 17 other countries who comprise this unique community. I should further add that you should not be surprised that a country like Bangladesh with its myriad challenges should indeed welcome our Afghan sisters in their time of distress.  History tells us that, often, those who have suffered are the first ones to respond to the suffering of others.  In 1944 when the famine in Bengal struck, the first country to respond to the needs of the dying was Ireland.  I think Ireland knew something about famines.  Bangladesh knows about the meaning and consequences of conflict from its own liberation war in 1971.
I want to pledge in front of all of you on behalf of my Prime Minister that Bangladesh is firmly committed to the education of women at all levels. We cherish the work of the Asian University for Women:  it represents our values and commitments.  It creates a microcosm of the world at large — here a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist and perhaps a non-believer can come together in the common prayer for the grace of all of humanity.  We will stand by our Afghan sisters every step of the way.  We await the arrival of the 203 Afghan women who have already been admitted to AUW and the other 300 whose applications are at various stages of being evaluated.  We are grateful to all countries and organizations that are aiding AUW in this venture.
It is 4:00 am in Bangladesh.  I wanted to still join you because I want our Afghan sisters to know that we are here to support them, no matter what.
                                   — Hon’ble Dr. Dipu Moni
                                      Minister of Education, Bangladesh, speaking at
                                      AUW/Wellesley College Women Teaching Women Forum
                                      January 18, 2022


Dear Friends,

With the arrival this morning of six newly admitted Afghan students at AUW — Mobaraka (Helmand Province), Tahiri (Ghazni Province), Khurshid (Ghazni), Sima (Herat Province), Ruqaiya (Ghazni), and Fatima (Ghazni) out of Kabul to Chittagong, we have completed Phase I of our recruitment of new Afghan students from across Afghanistan.  As of today, 171 Afghan students are enrolled at AUW and attending classes alongside over a thousand students from 17 other countries.   Within weeks of our evacuation in August (2021) of the 148 Afghan students then attending AUW, we organized a campaign across all 34 provinces to identify and test hundreds of aspiring Afghan students out of an applicant pool of over 7,000.







Arrived in Chattogram, Bangladesh on February 27, 2022

The group assembled is quite extraordinary in many ways:  they have come from 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 different provinces:  Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Paktia, Kandahar, Badakhshan, Bamyan, Takhar, Jawzjan, Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Baghlan, Daikondi, Nangarhar, Faryab, Nimroz and Ghor. They comprise of ethnic Hazaras, Tajiks, Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Sadats and Arabs. Their academic placement ranges from entry into AUW’s Pathways for Promise Program (119) to the inaugural class of Masters in Education (19).  They have already brought much joy and color (and relief) to our community.  Having taken extraordinary steps to bring these women out of Afghanistan, we renew our commitment to provide them with the best education they can get as scholars as well as thoughtful and engaged citizens of the world.

New Afghan Students at AUW on February 27, 2022

We are grateful to all those who have made this remarkable journey possible.  We have been fortunate to have the support and the reach of over a dozen young Afghan academics working in a number of provincial universities across Afghanistan to aid a massive recruitment effort.  As a first step in their engagement with AUW, these young academics committed to put forward their own daughter or sister or niece or another family member as a candidate and became personally vested in the whole process from the beginning.   At considerable personal risk they undertook the task of spreading the word of the scholarship opportunities at AUW, making all the logistical arrangements for hundreds of these students to take the AUW admissions test and be interviewed on zoom. Our own faculty at AUW gave up hundreds of hours of time to evaluate admissions tests and interview candidates at rapid speed.  Our Admissions Office worked at breakneck speed, month after month, to process all the documents. One returning Afghan student, Halima Karimi, initially out of Kabul and then out of Islamabad, played an outstanding role in both inspiring other students and calming them throughout a nerve wrecking journey.  Back on campus, she is busy continuing to assist the students from Afghanistan.

Halima Karimi, AUW Afghan Student Leader

The Government of Bangladesh with heartfelt support from its Hon’ble Prime Minister, the Education Minister, the Home Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and many others, provided an unprecedented Visa-On-Arrival facility to all the Afghan students who were admitted to AUW.  H.E. Ambassador Mansour Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, arranged for all of our students to have transit visas into Pakistan and thereby facilitated their travel out of Kabul and into Bangladesh.   Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, US Department of State through its Office of Global Women’s Issues led by Kat Fotovat, Freedom House, Catalyst Foundation, Packard Foundation and our long time supporters, Jack Meyer, Robby Feldman, Richard Folsom, and Ki Hak Sung, extended financial support to help in arranging the transportation and other logistics even when we had little certainty of whether any of these efforts would be successful.  We are grateful to each of them beyond what ordinary words can possibly convey.

President Paula Johnson of Wellesley College hosted a virtual forum on January 18, 2022, bringing together such luminaries as former Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrrup Rasmussen (whose late wife, Lone Dybkjaer, was a co-founder of AUW); former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; AUW Chancellor Cherie Blair; MacArthur Foundation President John Palfrey; Jack Meyer, AUWSF chairman and former President of Harvard Management Company; Kat Fotovat from US Department of State; UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner Kelly Clements; Bangladesh Education Minister Dr. Dipu Moni; Pakistan Federal Minister Sania Nishtar; Jean Heyns, CEO of Wellington Management, Reshma Kewalramani, CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Abby Johnson, CEO of Fidelity; and John Sexton, former President of New York University and a host of others to draw attention to the urgency of our cause. Professor Rangita de Silva de Alwis, an internationally famed human rights lawyer who is an Associate Dean at the University of Pennsylvania Law School helped both organize the event and provided a powerful benediction in closing the virtual forum.

To view the video of Women Teaching Women, Women Learning from Women Forum, please click here:

In some ways, with these new students on campus, our work begins anew.  Our housekeeping staff are busy arranging all the room and board logistics. (AUW has rented or is renting over 250,000 of additional space to accommodate the needs of new students from Afghanistan and elsewhere).   Placement tests are occurring to ensure all the incoming students are enrolled in the most appropriate level of classes.  Our cooking staff have already turned down the spice in the kitchen to allow for the Afghan students to adjust to Sub Continental tastes.  We expect to see more Kabuli Pulao and pomegranate in the dining halls.   Our Health & Wellness Center is assessing the health conditions of all the incoming students and taking the requisite action to ensure their compliance with immunization protocols and other health needs. We are striving to improve our mental health support so that they find more sympathy and understanding as they emerge from these traumatic experiences.   Maine (US) Psychiatrist Dr. Anne Hallward is leading a series of workshops beginning next week that will explore a range of mental health issues directly with the students; other interventions are planned as well such as mental health Hotline.

A mother with three daughters who are now our students sent me the following message: “It feels like three mountains have been lifted from my shoulders” — possibly three mountains filled with fear and anxiety about an unknown future that has now enveloped her country.  We have taken on a high responsibility.  We will do our best to not disappoint any mother of our students.

The President of the University of Basel, Professor Andrea Schenker-Wicki, in an extraordinary show of solidarity has already announced a number of scholarships for our new Afghan students to pursue their studies at AUW. Harvard University is contemplating sending graduates to teach in the our College preparatory programs. Konrad Adenauer Foundation has also responded by providing additional scholarships. We will need a lot more of it, particularly in scholarship aid  But, for now, we are just grateful that all of our students have safely reached Chattogram.  Tomorrow I get to host a welcome to all of our Afghan students in Chittagong over Kabuli Pulao!  Very exciting!

Photos of New Afghan Students travelling from Kabul to Chattogram in February 2022

In the meantime, I would also like to report that all 148 of the AUW Afghan students who were evacuated to the US in August 2021 have been placed in US universities with full scholarships.  Arizona State University under the leadership of President Michael Crow has taken 60 students; followed by lesser numbers at Brown, Cornell, Delaware, West Virginia,, Suffolk, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, DePaul and North Texas.  AUW Trustee Professor Tim DeVoogdt  at Cornell was instrumental in organizing Cornell University’s participation in this effort.  An estimated $32 million have been mobilized in support of our Afghan students.  Our longtime pro bono counsels at Mayer Brown led by Marcia Goodman and Charles Hallab helped every step of the way — from mobilizing political support for the evacuation to negotiating host agreements with participating universities, staying up night after night to get this all done.  Things would have been far more challenging for us without the constant support and guidance from Marcia and Charles and other Mayer Brown lawyers.  Marcia Maack from Mayer Brown  coordinated a supra-firm effort to ensure every one of AUW Afghan 148 had found a pro bono counsel while Tahirih Justice Center assisted with the  training of lawyers as needed.  We are grateful to the following leading law firms in the United States for extending their pro bono support to AUW’s Afghan 148.  We know that with such fine legal support our students have a better prospect in adjusting their legal status in the US that will allow them to live and pursue their dreams without the uncertainty of their immigration status looming in their lives:   Mayer Brown, Simpson Thatcher, Debevoise & Plimpton, Kirkland & Ellis, Milbank, Winston & Strawn, Ropes & Gray, Allen & Overy, Morgan Stanley (Legal Division), Wilson Sonsini and Cravath.

Thank you for all your support.  We are truly grateful.



Kamal Ahmad
Founder & Trustee
Asian University for Women


Media coverage of AUW Afghan students in 2021

August 30, 2021
The New York Times
A university in Bangladesh evacuates almost 150 young women from Kabul

September 2, 2021
The Chronicle of Higher Education
‘I Am Hopeful, and I Am Heartbroken’ 

September 16, 2021
How These Women Barely Made It Out of Afghanistan (Podcast)

September 18, 2021
South China Morning Post
Female students show grit and endurance in 11th-hour escape from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan

September 27, 2021
U.S. Department of Defense
Afghan Women Receive Scholarships to U.S. Universities

October 3, 2021
The New York Times
Military Bases Turn Into Small Cities as Afghans Wait Months for Homes in U.S.

October 7, 2021
Afghan women lanugch school for refugees on US army base 

October 18, 2021
‘Everything Was in Afghanistan’

October 20, 2021
Afghan Women Have a Town Hall Meeting with Asian University for Women President
U.S. Department of Defense

November 15, 2021
Wisconsin State Journal
‘’I have lost my everything’: Afghans grapple with loss, hope as they prepare to leave Fort McCoy’

November 17, 2021
Prothom Alo
Interview with Kamal Ahmad: The thrilling story of rescuing 146 Afghan students from Kabul to Bangladesh

December 12, 2021
The Sunday Times
Escape from Kabul: the Female students who fled the Taliban

January 27, 2022
Brown University
Forced to flee Kabul last August, 15 young Afghan women find an academic home at Brown