Professor arrested for recruiting students to radical groups

Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), has arrested a Kabul University professor allegedly on charges of recruiting students for the so-called Islamic State terrorist group or ISIS to stage deadly assaults.

Against the backdrop of a string of brazen assaults in the capital Kabul, eastern Nangarhar and northern Jawzjan provinces, the NDS stated on 7 July that the Special Forces arrested four members of the ‘Daesh’ (Islamic State-Khorasan or IS-K) terrorist group involved in the recruitment of fighters and organising of terror attacks in the capital. IS-K, which first emerged in 2014, is particularly active in these provinces.

According to the police charge sheet, the Kabul University academic, Mubashir Muslimyar, an Islamic Studies lecturer, and three graduates of the same institution told investigators they were working closely with Islamic State operatives in Nangarhar.

The NDS claim cannot be independently verified as the suspects are in high-security detention away from media access. However, an NDS officer – who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter – told University World News that the extremist group was quite active in systematically luring Afghan youth towards religious militancy.

The police statement said two of the arrested suspected terrorists – Ahmad Tariq and Ahmad Farooq – were involved in three major terrorist attacks, including the targeting of a wrestling match in the west of Kabul in 2018; the terrorist attack on the employees of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission in May 2019; and the attack on the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in 2017.

The Kabul University administration told University World News it is independently investigating the issue and would make the details public via a press conference later this month.

However, the Kabul University Chancellor, Hamidullah Farooqi, told a campus meeting this week that the campus would never be allowed to be used for political propaganda or militant activities.

He said the academic institution, which he described as a ‘mini-Afghanistan’, “cannot remain immune to what is going on in society. However, as a responsible institution we would not allow any activities that are against the law and pose a threat to society”.

Farooqi also urged the security and intelligence agencies to share more details in this connection.

New shockwaves

The country has been struggling against a widespread ongoing Taliban insurgency for nearly two decades, but the surge of IS-K has been sending new shockwaves across Afghanistan, particularly for its often unforgiving tactics of spreading fear and terror through large-scale attacks among civilians.

A research paper published in Farsi in April by the independent Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS), “Religious Radicalism in the Higher Education of Afghanistan”, warned against a growing trend of radicalisation in universities.

The study explored campus-based radicalism and its influence on students. According to AISS researcher Ramin Kamangar, the author of the study, around 34% of respondents supported a democratic system while 51% backed the Islamic Emirate or Islamic Caliphate as an ideal system of governance.

Kabul University professor, Arif Bahram, said a wide range of fundamentalist and radical groups besides IS-K have targeted Afghanistan’s universities to forward their ideology.

“Kabul University in particular is the main target of these groups since it is the biggest university and houses students from all over the country,” he said, warning that the future of Afghanistan could prove bleak if this goes unchecked.

Others such as Hadi Meeran, a sociologist and political analyst, argued that drastic changes are needed in the academic system and syllabus to address this matter.

“In an Islamic country where Sharia and other religious teachings are intact and mosques are actively promoting and propagating them every day, there is no need for such subjects at high-level professional academic institutions,” he said.

This comes as the Ministry of Higher Education on Wednesday announced results for the nationwide university entrance examinations known as ‘Kankor’, with nearly 160,000 making it to higher education institutions across Afghanistan.