Afghans protest “heartbreaking” exclusion from UK Chevening scholarship

Chevening is a extremely aggressive authorities program that provides aspiring leaders from over 160 international locations the possibility to pursue a grasp’s diploma within the UK, for gratis to them. Purposes to the scheme are assessed on an annual foundation.

Working alongside fellow alumni, Azizi hoped that they might have the ability to assist different Afghan ladies safe the award and escape the distress that has enveloped the nation for the reason that Taliban seized management final yr. 

“I had allotted this one month of August particularly for… taking in three to 5 younger ladies who need to apply, to mentor them, to supply them my feedback and concepts on find out how to submit an software,” she stated. 

However when the 2023/24 software cycle opened at first of August, Azizi and her mentees had been shocked. 

“Increase. August 1 got here and the web site stated that software is closed for Afghans,” Azizi stated. “It was so heartbreaking, actually.”

The Chevening web site

Chevening alumni from Afghanistan have described the choice to exclude Afghans from the scholarship scheme as “devastating” and have called on the UK government to reopen it. 

They are saying that the scholars who had been hoping to use, a lot of whom are reluctant to talk out for worry of reprisal by the Taliban, really feel deserted by the worldwide neighborhood. 

The International, Commonwealth and Growth Workplace declined to remark publicly on the choice, however alumni declare that communication they’ve obtained from the federal government blames security issues.

“I don’t assume it is a good motive,” stated Negina Barai, 28, who studied within the UK beneath a Chevening scholarship in 2020/21, in the course of the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. “At the moment, we had our interviews on-line. We utilized for our visas, we did all the method on-line and we made it.” 

In June, the UK authorities announced that it was tripling the variety of Chevening scholarships supplied to Ukrainian college students for the incoming yr, taking all 68 candidates who had been shortlisted for interviews.

“I perceive that Afghans and Ukraine are going via the identical they usually each want this scholarship. Why are they solely closed for Afghans they usually didn’t shut for Ukraine?” requested Barai. 

Labour councillor Peymana Assad, who was born in Afghanistan and co-founded the Labour International Coverage Group, known as the choice “discriminatory”. 

“They’re afraid Afghan college students will declare asylum after their research are completed”

“The one motive that the FCDO are doing it is because they’re afraid Afghan college students will declare asylum after their research are completed,” Assad advised The PIE Information. “However they don’t thoughts if Ukrainian college students do that. We must always remind the UK authorities that claiming asylum as an Afghan is just not against the law.”

The US authorities brought about an analogous outcry when it cancelled the Fulbright scholarship in March for Afghan candidates, earlier than making a u-turn and confirming that semi-finalists could be thought-about for the 2023/24 spherical.

In the meantime, different Chevening alumni who stay in Afghanistan proceed to attend for the federal government to fulfil its promise of resettlement within the UK. 

Britain opened a brand new immigration pathway for this group in June however it’s unclear whether or not anybody has but relocated via this route. 

Earlier this month, FCDO minister and Conservative peer Tariq Ahmad tweeted that the foreign office is working via the expressions of curiosity and “will probably be in contact as shortly as attainable with these eligible”. 

It’s understood that the international workplace hopes to supply the Chevening scholarship to future Afghan cohorts, but, because the Taliban continues to forestall women from learning previous major college, Chevening alumni are urging the UK authorities to instantly open the scheme to Afghans. 

“In the event that they proceed closing the scholarship for Afghans, particularly for women, my query could be – what’s the distinction between the de facto authorities at present governing Afghanistan and a developed nation?” Barai stated. “They each are banning Afghan ladies from schooling.”