Oxford to make more scholarships available to Afghan women fleeing Taliban

Five scholarships will be made available at Oriel College for the brightest students

OXFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Cyclists ride past a statue of Cecil Rhodes displayed on the front of on Oriel College on February 2, 2016 in Oxford, England. Oriel College has decided to keep its statue of Cecil Rhodes despite the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

More female Afghan students will be able to go to the UK after a scholarship programme at the University of Oxford opened new opportunities.

The Yalda Hakim Foundation has increased the number of places it offers to Afghan women to study at Oriel College, after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

BBC journalist and founder of the scheme, Australian Yalda Hakim, made headlines in recent weeks after answering a call from the militants live on air.

She said she would expand the scheme from one to five places because the need to advance the education of Afghanistan’s brightest minds was greater than ever.

“We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the current brain drain, and the exodus that we’re seeing in the country, doesn’t mean that these people are lost," Hakim said.

"They are the best and brightest of the last 20 years, and they are the quintessential 9/11 generation.

“These are people who have not lived under the Taliban. They’ve had a lack of security, because of bomb blasts and things like that in the capital and elsewhere.

"But they’ve had relative freedom; freedom to study, freedom to travel, and freedom to dream.”

The criteria for scholarships includes that the women must be Afghan nationals.

“But we’re going to obviously cast our net wide now to see who we can offer these scholarships to, based on not just those in Afghanistan, because there is uncertainty about travel and leaving the country,” Hakim said.

The Taliban announced this week that it will require women to wear the hijab and not to travel without a male chaperone.

“We don’t know how the Taliban will govern," Hakim said. "At the moment they’ve put a ban on Afghan nationals leaving the country. And also it’s just too unstable to sort of get people to apply.

“These young women that I’ve been speaking to day and night for the last week are traumatised, and they feel like everything that they’ve known has disappeared overnight.”

Lord Mendoza, of King’s Reach in the City of London, the provost of Oriel College, said: “I admire the vital work of the Yalda Hakim Foundation to advance women’s education in Afghanistan.

“Oriel is delighted to be able to partner with them for this important scholarship. At the time the scholarship was conceived, the situation for women and girls in Afghanistan was already beginning to deteriorate.

“Oriel wanted to play a part in helping to provide a safe environment for a talented female Afghan student to come to the best university in the world, and to benefit from the educational experiences here.

“Watching the situation currently unfolding in Afghanistan is heart-breaking. We hope the scholarship will go ahead as planned.

"We also hope to expand the programme in the future to provide more women the same opportunity. This is more important now than ever.”

Updated: August 29th 2021, 10:42 PM