Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghans Cross Border to Study in Tajikistan

By Sadunsho Janobalisho, Mirzojalol Shohjamolov











As Tajikistan prepares for the withdrawal of NATO-led troops from its southern neighbour Afghanistan, people on either side of the frontier are hoping that one aspect of cross-border traffic will be able to carry on unaffected – academic exchanges.

Afghanistan and Tajikistan each have a province called Badakhshan, and the two are culturally as well as geographically close. Young people from the Afghan province have been heading north to take up places at the University of Central Asia, which has a campus in Khorog, the administrative centre of Tajik Badakhshan.

Seventeen Afghan women are currently attending the university, part of a group of 48 who won places for the current academic year in a fiercely competitive process.

According to university official Dilovar Butabekov, “There were so many applicants that we came up with the idea of a bilateral project where the university will launch an educational programme in Afghanistan.”

The University of Central Asia will soon open teaching centres in the Nusay, Shighnan and Ishkashim districts of Afghan Badakhshan and a larger one on the provincial centre Faizabad.

Nazifa Nabiha, a student from Ishkashim in Afghanistan, said life in Tajikistan was a lot different from home.

“What impressed me most when we arrived here was the very liberal atmosphere,” she said. “Everyone minds their own business and don’t pry into other people’s, which is what happens at home.”

The arrival of female Afghan students has also shifted perceptions on the Tajik side of the border.

“We thought women in Afghanistan went around in burkas and were repressed by religious fanatics,” said local analyst Umed Mamadpanoev. “When we see these burka-less students in our town, we conclude that their parents understand the importance of education for girls.”

Sadonsho Janobalisho is an IWPR contributor in Tajikistan. Mirzojalol Shohjamolov is an IWPR-trained radio journalist in Badakhshan,

This audio programme went out in Russian and Tajik on national radio stations in Tajikistan. It was produced under two IWPR projects: Empowering Media and Civil Society Activists to Support Democratic Reforms in Tajikistan, funded by the European Union; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Norwegian foreign ministry.  

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