Politics Thrives on Kabul Campus
AFGHAN INTELLECTUALS: A VANISHING BREED
KABUL UNIVERSITY mirrors much of the ideological warfare that convulses Afghanistan. Two decades ago, this cool, shaded campus was the hotbed for left-wing reform and the communist movement that triggered a chain of events: the 1978 Marxist coup; the Muslim uprising; and the Soviet military occupation at shoring up the communist government. Students who squared off in political agitations now lead the pro-Soviet Kabul regime as well as the mujahideen guerrillas fighting Kabul.Skip to next paragraph
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Foreign observers say that much of Afghanistan's 11-year conflict is rooted in the political vortex of Kabul University. Even before King Mohammed Zahir Shah was deposed in 1973, the Afghan communists, many of them teachers and professors, were building their movement in this intellectual island, set apart from the conservative Islamic mainstream.
Afghanistan observers agree that the communists exploited student agitations and discontent over feudal attitudes and widespread poverty to overthrow Gen. Sardar Mohammed Daoud in 1978. Just after the uprising, the crackdown at the university began. In the turmoil leading up to the Soviet invasion in December 1979, many faculty and students were arrested and imprisoned.
``I was thrown out nine days after the coup and replaced by a member of the party,'' recalls Abdul Azimi, the university's former president who now lives in exile in Peshawar, Pakistan. ``Within one and a half years, I had left the country.''
Today, like much of this Afghan capital, the university wears a calm that masks deep unease. As students and professors stroll the campus, many others are secretly fleeing the country, its harsh living conditions, and the possibility of being drafted into the Army.
For those who remain, there is only uncertainty. Pockets of dissidents await a guerrilla offensive and hope the Kabul government will collapse. Many have opted for the tough life in Kabul because they say life in Pakistan's refugee camps is bleaker and they could be forced to fight for fundamentalist guerrilla groups based there.
The university, founded in 1932, is a shadow of its former self. Hundreds of Afghan intellectuals have been killed, imprisoned, or fled abroad during the turmoil of the last decade, professors say. Students complain that teaching and grading standards have deteriorated, and admissions and faculty promotions politicized.
Since the final pullout of Soviet troops in February, the overt Russian bent of the curriculum has been dropped. And like President Najibullah, the academics from his ruling party who run the institution play down the Soviet influence and renew Western ties.
Still, renewal at Kabul University remains clouded by civil war.
``There's an inertia. No one knows what to do - professors, students, administrators - because of the economic situation and the security problems,'' says Wajid Adil, an agriculture lecturer who recently fled to Pakistan.
Today, there are 9,500 students, more than half of them women, and 580 teachers. That's two-thirds the size of the institution before the coup. Afghans in Peshawar say that 50 percent of the 950 faculty members in 1978 either disappeared or fled abroad.
``Unfortunately, we have been faced with the terrible phenomenon of lecturers fleeing,'' says Kamran Homayun, the university's chancellor, who was educated in the United States. ``When war breaks out in a country, the intelligentsia is more sensitive and the first part of the society to react.''