PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Maryam Khademi vividly remembers the day last August when the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan’s capital.
“I was at an office in Kabul, working as a part-time communication assistant at one of the NGOs in Afghanistan,” Khademi said. “My coworker called and said: ‘The Taliban are coming. You have to pack your belongings and burn every document that you feel could put you in danger.’”
In the hours that followed, Khademi visited a bank to withdraw all of her money and faced crowds of people attempting to do the same. Afterward, she didn’t leave home for 10 days, afraid to venture outside in her Western clothes after hearing reports that the Taliban were attacking women who didn’t abide by their strict dress codes. On television, she watched as hordes of Afghans rushed to get into Kabul International Airport, the desperation ultimately leading to stampedes.
She thought: How will I ever make it out?
That was just less than six months ago. And Khademi did make it out. Now, she and 14 other young refugees from Afghanistan — most of whom had studied together at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh — are safely living in residences at Brown University, where they are gearing up to study politics, economics and public health during the spring semester.
It’s not the first time the University has provided a home for displaced scholars from across the globe, said University Provost Richard M. Locke — and it likely won’t be the last. In 2017, Brown welcomed nearly 50 University of Puerto Rico students in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a dozen years after almost 90 New Orleans students came to College Hill following Hurricane Katrina. Brown is a member of the New University in Exile Consortium and Scholars at Risk, and in recent years, has hosted a visiting professor and three graduate students from Syria, as well as one visiting artist from Nigeria, in response to the influx of migrants into Europe from war-torn regions.
“In the face of an increasingly unstable world, there is an especially pressing need to ensure that university campuses remain physically and intellectually open and welcoming,” Locke said. “That’s why Brown has long been committed to supporting scholars who are at risk due to conflicts in their home countries — including these 15 talented Afghan women. We are thrilled to provide all the support these driven, determined students need to thrive at Brown and ultimately make a positive impact on the world.”