MEM Board Statement on the Crisis in Afghanistan

Over the past three weeks, Afghanistan has suffered another major humanitarian, political, and sociocultural crisis resulting, in no small measure, from decades of involvement in Afghanistan by western nations. The academic, arts, and cultural heritage communities in Afghanistan have been targeted, and historical and cultural sites are in danger of being looted. Important preservation, safeguarding, and archival work of recent decades is now at risk. The Middle East Medievalists Board urges US and UK authorities—as well as those in other countries—to continue to prioritize the relocation of, and assistance to, our at-risk Afghan colleagues working in the academic and cultural heritage sectors.

As a group of academics and educators, Middle East Medievalists also calls attention to another kind of crisis: a longstanding crisis of knowledge on Afghanistan’s past and present, which has severely hampered the effectiveness of international and multilateral policies and programs. For the MEM Board, the study of the history, languages, arts, and cultures of Afghanistan constitutes a critical aspect of our institutional mission.

We pledge to put greater emphasis in our resources toward facilitating applications from Afghan students, scholars, and artists for safe spaces of study, research, and creative expression.

It is imperative that academic and cultural institutions foster learning about Afghanistan’s past and present, through fellowships, dedicated academic positions, language teaching, and beyond. We urgently need more expertise on Afghanistan and systematic investment in education. This will ensure greater understanding of the country within governments and international organizations, and among the general public.

We hope that the renewed impetus of our board will inspire our audiences to stand by us in supporting the people of Afghanistan and their rich scholarly and cultural heritage.

Ways to assist: