Berkeley students, staff and faculty launch Afghan scholar rescue campaign

people lined up in the desert in front of barbed wire

Hundreds of people gathered outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. UC Berkeley has launched a fundraising rescue operation for Afghan scholars at risk. (AP Photo)

A team of UC Berkeley staffers, students, scholars and faculty have launched a fundraising program to help Afghan journalists, lawyers and other academics flee their country as it falls to the Taliban.

The group has so far raised more than $60,000 and hopes to raise a total of $100,000 by Friday, August 27. If that goal is met, UC Berkeley’s research office will donate an additional $100,000.

“Our first priority is immediate support for a leading women’s rights activist and journalist with five small children,” the group wrote on the effort’s UC Berkeley fundraising page. “She and her family are at acute risk and desperately trying to escape Afghanistan. We are also working quickly to secure placement for a law school dean, and with Scholars at Risk, an international network organized to support academic freedom, to bring others to Berkeley.”

The organizers include UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center, in partnership with San Jose State’s Human Rights Institute and the UC Berkeley Afghan Student Association.

“This is what Berkeley is about, that’s the beacon,” said Eric Stover, the faculty director of UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center, which has 27 years of experience supporting refugees. “We encourage academic freedom and we encourage human rights and when we see those principles violated in other parts of the world, we must step up to do something, and quickly.”

Chancellor Carol Christ said she supported the groups’ work.

“I am hopeful that we will be able to generate support to provide a safe landing for individuals who are facing serious risk,” she said.

“We hope our universities will inspire other institutions to help the women, men and children facing grave risks in Afghanistan to find refuge,” the organizers wrote.