Fostering Academic Freedom: a journey from Afghanistan to Italy

As a law professor and human rights activist, my journey has been one defined by challenges and triumphs in the pursuit of academic freedom.

My story begins in Afghanistan, where I embarked on a mission to educate and empower through teaching and conferences. Despite the threats from the Taliban and ISIS that loomed over me in the form of menacing messages and calls, my resolve to champion the rights of women, children and minorities remained unwavering. However, the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August 2021 forced me to make a painful escape to neighbouring countries, leaving behind my academic position and all my life.

Very difficult conditions in immigration because I had lost my academic job and my money was in my bank account in Afghanistan and I had no access. In a twist of fate, the Scholars at Risk Italy program extended a lifeline, leading me to the University of Padova. Colleagues at the University of Padovaoffered me not only a chance for research and study but a nurturing community that felt like kin. Their daily emails, expressing concern for my situation, stand as a vivid reminder of their unwavering care during those trying times.

After a month in the university dormitory, my living situation took a new turn. A professor of the University of Padova extended a generous offer, inviting me to stay at his home. Over the next four months, I experienced his hospitality as he provided free accommodation. This professor’sextraordinary kindness and compassion left a deep impact on me during this time.

A four-month research tenure at the University of Padova proved transformative, allowing me to hold several scientific conferences addressing various human rights issues in Afghanistan, from women's rights to academic freedom. Also, for two and a half months, the Global Campus of Human Rights in Venice gave me a fellowship, for which I am truly grateful.

Beyond academia, Italy became a second home in ways I could never have anticipated. Throughout my time in Italy, my colleagues extended invitations to various recreational, musical, and sports events. They went out of their way to create an inclusive environment, ensuring I never felt out of place. Additionally, I formed valuable friendships that endure to this day.

On the last day in Italy, it was really hard for me to leave my friends and colleagues. Italy had become my second home. I had a farewell meeting with them and I will never forget their kindness.

In its essence, my experience in Italy serves as a vivid embodiment of the profound connection that exists between academic freedom and the trajectory of my personal journey. As I reflect on my journey, Italy's embrace offers a powerful illustration of academic freedom in action. Here, academic freedom didn't merely find its boundaries within the classroom. It extended its influence to foster comprehensive personal development, cultivate a nurturing community, and foster impactful relationships. My time in Italy showed me that academic freedom is like a multifaceted gem - it means not only doing important research but also building strong connections in a thriving academic community.

The bridge between my activities as a law professor in Afghanistan and Italian experiences lies in the shared ethos of academic freedom. In Afghanistan, I passionately worked to educate and empower, especially women, children, and minorities, despite facing the daunting threats of the Taliban and ISIS as an Hazara people human rights defender. The Italian academic environment embraced me with open arms, echoing the essence of academic freedom that I championed in Afghanistan.

The thread linking my endeavours in Afghanistan and the unfolding chapter in Italy is the shared aspiration for academic freedom - an unwavering commitment to knowledge, empowerment, and the pursuit of intellectual and societal progress.

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Registrazione presso il Tribunale di Padova n. 2097/2012 del 18 giugno 2012