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Researchers from Afghanistan receive academic sanctuaries in Sweden

Last week, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency – Sida, decided to fund a national support program for researchers from Afghanistan. The initiative comes from Scholars at Risk-Sweden, which Linnaeus University has been a member of since 2016.

“Swedish higher education institutions need to act in solidarity for the protection of Afghan researchers. We must ensure that the research community is preserved and continues to develop for a future, democratic Afghanistan”, says Eva Wiberg, vice-chancellor of University of Gothenburg which is coordinator for Scholars at Risk–Sweden.

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 was devastating for the country's universities, with targeted, violent attacks on both students and staff. The international network Scholars at Risk (SAR) has since received applications for support from over 1,500 researchers from the country and has issued an appeal to its members to welcome researchers from Afghanistan to their universities.

“Academics who work in subject areas that are not accepted by the Taliban fear for their lives, and entire research disciplines are in danger due to lack of national funding and difficulties in operating in the country”, says Karolina Catoni, contact person for SAR-Sweden, at University of Gothenburg.

At the initiative of SAR-Sweden, Sida has decided to finance a support program during the years 2022-2024. It will provide around ten at-risk researchers from Afghanistan with temporary academic sanctuaries at one of the 22 Swedish universities that are members of Scholars at Risk.

“With Sida's funding, the Swedish higher education sector will have good opportunities to host scholars from Afghanistan. So far, about fifteen Swedish universities have announced their interest”, Karolina Catoni continues.

Hosting researchers at risk in most cases means that the scholar is offered a temporary position as a visiting researcher. The support program makes it possible for Swedish universities to apply for 70 percent of the costs of hosting a researcher from Afghanistan from SAR-Sweden. University of Gothenburg is the grant manager of the total of SEK 17 million that falls within the support programme.


Scholars at Risk is an international network that works for academic freedom and provides protection to at-risk researchers. Up until today, Linnaeus University has welcomed two at-risk scholars via SAR and is now reviewing the possibility to welcome a researcher from Afghanistan. Linnaeus University will also fund a scholarship to an Afghan student for studies in autumn semester 2022.

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Contact at Linnaeus University

Lena Kulmala, phone: +4670-305 60 49, email: lena.kulmala@lnu.se