Yale returns from Spring Break today and debate is likely to start heating up over the school's admission of former Taliban official Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi as a student.
Yale refuses to defend its position, but others are talking. Afghan exiles are appalled that Mr. Rahmatuallah, one often acted as a Taliban propagandist, was given a coveted place that could have gone to an Afghan man or woman who had been oppressed by the Taliban. Author Sebastian Junger reports from Afghanistan in the current Vanity Fair on the atrocities the Taliban are committing today. They include skinning a man alive and leaving him to die in the sun. Another man was forced to watch as his wife was gang-raped. Then his eyes were put out, so that the horrific crime would be the last image he would ever see. The relatives of U.S. soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan are likewise appalled. "It's not like the Taliban ever signed a peace treaty," Natalie Healy, the mother of a Navy SEAL killed by a Taliban rocket last year, told me. "They're still killing Americans."
Yale's silence is disconcerting to Hanna Holborn Gray, a former Yale provost who also served as its acting president for 14 months before heading the University of Chicago. She told me that while she had no specific views on the Taliban student, in general she didn't buy the argument that one should invite the enemy to teach or study on campus. "There are so many ways to get that point of view, through lectures by them on campus, through the Internet, through study by students abroad that I don't see the need to accord them special status," she told me.
Malalai Joya, a 27-year-old member of Afghanistan's parliament, is coming to Yale this Thursday to speak about women's rights and the growing power of both the Northern Alliance warlords and the Taliban in her country. She is harshly critical of President Hamid Karzai's government, which she says is infiltrated by warlords, and of the U.S. for supporting it. But she is also appalled that many people have forgotten the crimes of the Taliban. She was surprised to hear that Mr. Rahmatullah was attending Yale. "He should apologize to my people and expose what he and others did under the Taliban," she told me. "He knew very well what criminal acts they committed; he was not too young to know. He should give interviews so we know what he thinks now. It would be better if he faced a court of justice than be a student at Yale University." Somehow I doubt Mr. Rahmatullah will be attending her lecture on Thursday.
Here's hoping that Ms. Joya's visit to Yale will touch off a full-fledged debate about the Taliban propagandist. As for the Bush State Department that granted Rahmatullah his visa, they have now been formally asked by three Congressional committees to provide an explanation.
For the rest of my article today on this subject go here.