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Afghani Human Rights Worker Silenced by Loyola University

Administration at Loyola University Chicago decide to cancel an appearance by a member of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), citing student security issues.
The administration of Loyola University Chicago has decided to cancel an appearance by a member of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), citing student security concerns. Tahmeena Faryal, an internationally known advocate for women’s rights in Afghanistan, was to appear November 8 for several events at Loyola University. RAWA has been a vocal opponent to the Taliban’s repressive treatment of women, and most recently has spoken out against the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.

Faryal was being welcomed by a broad coalition of sponsoring campus organizations, including the Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL), the Muslim Student Organization (MSO), Loyola Students Against Sweatshops (LSAS), the South Asian Student Alliance (SASA) and several academic departments, including Sociology, Psychology and the Women’s Studies’ Gannon Center.

No representatives from any of the sponsoring groups were present at a meeting held October 29, in which a small collection of top administrators and university president Michael Garanzini, S.J. decided to cancel the event. The administrators could not be reached for comment, but staff from the office of public relations stated that administrators were concerned about death threats aimed at RAWA, and decided that student safety was of primary concern and hosting such a person would compromise this safety.

Despite the fact that sponsoring groups were shut out of the decision making process, public relations staff at Loyola claim that there was a great deal of “healthy discussion” regarding the choice to cancel the events. Bud Jones, Associate Vice President of Public Relations, stated that although the sponsoring groups were disappointed, there was “no dissent whatsoever” regarding the decision.

Not everyone is in agreement with P.R.’s version of events, however. “It is an outrage that Loyola will not welcome a woman willing to risk her life to spread the word about what is going on in Afghanistan,” stated Jamie Leslie, a grad student working with both CURL and LSAS. “If anyone’s security is in question, it is (Faryal’s).” Shocked and disturbed by administration’s decision, Leslie and others are now scrambling to find alternate venues in which students can still hear RAWA’s message.

Given Loyola’s past record of supporting human rights workers whose lives were in danger, the decision to ban RAWA from campus is especially puzzling and outrageous. At this time last year, Bishop Samuel Ruiz of Chiapas, who himself has survived attempts on his life, was an honored guest at Loyola. So too was the late Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, one of the Jesuits murdered in 1989 in El Salvador. Ellacuria was brought to Loyola in the months leading up to his death, at a time when hosting such a person would seem increasingly dangerous.

Students and community members upset by the decision to cancel the RAWA events are encouraged to call and write Loyola Administration with their concerns.

Please write and call the following individuals:

Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J.
President, Loyola University Chicago
mgaranz (at)

Dr. Larry Braskamp
Senior Vice President, Academic Affairs
lbraska (at)

Dr. Sherri Coe-Perkins
Vice President, Student Affairs
scoe (at)



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