Michigan State University researchers recall heartbreaking effort to evacuate 77 Afghan academics

Michigan State University had dozens of people in Afghanistan affiliated with the university when the country fell into the hands of the Taliban this summer. According to Bridge Michigan, its efforts to get 77 of them out of the country are probably the most important of any university that has run programs in the country.

I’m very proud of the work we’ve done at Michigan State to get these people out. —Kurt Richter, Michigan State University

Two Michigan State University employees – one who oversaw the evacuation efforts of academics in East Lansing and the other who was among 77 evacuees to Afghanistan – share their experiences.

Listen: Evacuation of Afghan academics from Michigan State University.


Kurt Richter is program director of the Grain Research and Innovation project at Michigan State University (GRAIN). He said the university had many researchers operating in Afghanistan to help expand the country’s wheat agriculture before the Taliban invaded.

When we heard that the situation was deteriorating in Afghanistan, we were concerned very quickly. Our hypothesis was that our researchers… would be in danger simply because of their affiliation to our project. Richter said the program was targeted because it was funded by the United States federal government and took pride in educating women. “Our work in Afghanistan has stopped. Our offices have been closed and we are in the process of, the staff that remains, we are trying to provide … remote support.

Richter says the university was working as hard as it could to get its Afghan academics to safety. “I’m very proud of the work we did at Michigan State to get these people out. ”

Sara qaderi was studying at Kabul University in collaboration with the MSU GRAIN program before the Taliban forces took control of Afghanistan. She was one of the 77 MSU evacuees affiliates who managed to leave the country. “There were over 2,000 people trying to enter the airport and approach the gates,” she said.

Qaderi recalled being exposed to tear gas and a suicide bombing while the MSU group was trying to escape. “There was no food or water,” she said. “It was a very scary feeling.”

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