New America Announces Seven Inaugural Scholars of the Afghanistan Observatory Initiative

Press Release
Gabriella Demczuk / New America
March 21, 2022

Washington, D.C.—Today, New America announced the inaugural scholars of the Afghanistan Observatory Initiative. The seven scholars selected have a demonstrated commitment to peacebuilding, good governance, and the defense of human rights in Afghanistan. Through the course of the scholarship period, the cohort will undertake independent research projects that aim to give voice to the millions of Afghans displaced by war and poverty.

The following individuals have been selected for New America’s Afghanistan Observatory Scholar Initiative:

  • Fahim Abed, a former reporter for the New York Times in Kabul, will research the role of corruption in the collapse of the former Afghan government and its security forces.
  • Maryam Barak, a former BBC producer and Salam Watandar radio reporter, will explore the stories of Afghans in exile.
  • Mir Abdullah Miri, a research consultant and qualitative researcher, will focus on the experiences of Afghan immigrants in different countries.
  • Elyas Nawandish, the online chief editor of Kabul-based Etilaat Roz, will research the role of corruption in the collapse of the Afghan government.
  • Humaira Rahbin, a researcher of human rights at the Center for Information Resilience, will research the wave of migration of the Afghan people, elites, and government officials in the last year before the collapse of the former Afghan government.
  • Qayoom Suroush, a researcher for the Center for Civilians in Conflict, Afghanistan Analysts Network, and the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, will explore how the political economy of conflict has perpetuated war in Afghanistan.
  • Summia Tora, Afghanistan’s first Rhodes Scholar and founder and executive director of Dosti Network, will investigate the role of social and economic inequalities among Afghans in fueling forced migration prior to the former government’s collapse.

"It is a great honor to welcome the inaugural Afghanistan Observatory Scholars to New America,” said New America CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter. “We are pleased to provide an intellectual home and financial support to this impressive group of writers, researchers, and humanitarians. After the devastating collapse of the Afghan government last year, it is more important than ever to do what we can to uplift the voices of the Afghan people and support critical analysis of governance and human rights in Afghanistan.” 

The Afghanistan Observatory Scholar Initiative, a collaboration between the Future Frontlines and Fellows Program at New America, will serve as a hub for recently expatriated Afghan nationals who left Afghanistan due to the collapse of the country’s former government in August 2021. The initiative aims to cultivate a network of Afghan journalists, human rights defenders, and champions of good governance.

“Since 1999, New America has been home to hundreds of writers and scholars as they develop their ambitious projects and, in this unique partnership with Future Frontlines, we are delighted to welcome and support seven talented and ambitious Afghanistan Observatory Scholars as they seek to regain their professional foothold in a new country,” said Fellows Program Director Awista Ayub.

“The Observatory Scholars are some of the sharpest minds Afghanistan has ever produced and the passion and experience they bring to the table will deliver accountability in spades for the multiple policy failures in Afghanistan. The launch of this initiative is an important first step toward ensuring that the United States and the world does not forget its moral obligations to support the Afghan people,” said Future Frontlines Director Candace Rondeaux.

"We are proud to host this important network of scholars and practitioners at New America. The Afghanistan Observatory Initiative will give them a platform from which to share the experiences of Afghans displaced from their homeland after suffering decades of war," said New America Vice President for Global Studies & Fellows Peter Bergen.

For more information about the Afghanistan Observatory Scholars and their projects, please visit:

The Afghanistan Observatory Initiative is funded by the Carnegie Corporation, the Open Society Foundations, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. 

The Human Rights Investigations Lab at the UC Berkeley School of Law, the Intercept, and Bellingcat are training partners.