LU joins network to help scholars at risk

The University is now a member of Scholars at Risk (SAR), an international network that helps vulnerable and persecuted academics.

Shirin Zubair

Professor Shirin Zubair visited Lund University and spoke about her situation as a persecuted academic.

“This is in line with our core values as a university, which include defending and supporting academic freedom”, says Pär Svensson at External Relations, who is LU’s SAR coordinator.

The network has approximately 330 member universities worldwide, including a number of Swedish universities as well as prestigious institutions such as Harvard and Cambridge. SAR has its headquarters at New York University and an office in The Hague. The aim of the network is to increase academic freedom, promote freedom of speech and raise awareness of the vulnerable situation of academics in various parts of the world.

Pär Svensson explains that a dialogue has been held with the network over the past two years, and that Lund finally joined in December last year.

“It is important that we have the opportunity to support other academics around the world who are under threat”, he says.

The launch in early December was attended by Shirin Zubair, a professor from the Department of English at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, Pakistan. Because of threats, she was forced to flee the country and she currently holds a SAR scholarship that enables her to work as a visiting researcher at a university in Norway.

She spoke about her situation, in which she was accused of blasphemy in her research and teaching, resulting in death threats. One of her colleagues was imprisoned and the colleague’s lawyer was murdered.

Involvement in SAR can take place on different levels. Initially, LU will support the network’s activities in various ways, for instance by participating in conferences and writing letters of support. In the future, it is hoped that Lund will be able to host a ‘scholar at risk’. There have not been any visiting scholars in Sweden yet, but in Norway SAR has been established longer and they regularly host academics through the network.

“The idea of hosting an academic under threat has strong support at the University, but the question of funding needs to be resolved”, says Pär Svensson.

More information about Scholars at Risk: http://scholarsatrisk.nyu.edu

Text: Jonas Andersson

Photo: Margareta Nordstrand