Oxford scholarship to welcome more Afghan women fleeing Taliban rule

Oriel College has teamed up with the Yalda Hakim Foundation for the scholarship, which initially had one student – David Levenson/Bloomberg

A scholarship programme for Afghan women to study at the University of Oxford is to be expanded to help more female students come to the UK.

The Yalda Hakim Foundation is looking to expand the number of places it offers to Afghan women to study at Oriel College in light of the Taliban’s rule.

Ms Hakim, a BBC journalist and founder of the scheme, rose to prominence in recent weeks after answering a call from the militants live on air.

She told The Telegraph that she would seek to expand the scheme from one to five places as the need to advance the education of Afghanistan’s brightest minds was greater than ever.

She said: “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. 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 will still remain the same where they have to be Afghan nationals. Ms Hakim added: “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.”

Earlier this week, the Taliban announced that it will require women to travel with a male chaperone and must wear the hijab after the militants took over Kabul.

“We don’t know how the Taliban will govern. 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,” Ms Hakim added.

“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.”

Scholarship ‘more important now than ever’

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.”

He added: “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 heartbreaking. 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.”

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