In February 2013, when I was a Professor at the American University of Afghanistan, I organized a blood drive in conjunction with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MoHA). My goal was simple: to do community service and save the lives of Afghans on the brink of life or death. No more, no less.
Unfortunately, my good will gesture stirred a rebellion on campus. A handful of Islamist students gathered a list of petitions and complained to AUAF administration, MoHA, and the National Directorate Security of Afghanistan, that I mustn't be allowed to organize a blood drive. Instead, they wanted the student government association to get credit for the event. Well, if my objectors really wanted recognition they should have considered hosting blood drives before I started working at AUAF or after I was expelled. They didn’t.
Then the Islamist students changed their story: They started complaining that donating blood was against Islam, that it should be Allah’s will whether a person dies or lives and that humans shouldn’t manipulate the plans of Iz’rail (Azrael), the so-called Angel of Death.
Days before the blood drive, some extremist students threatened the AUAF administration that if my blood drive wasn’t cancelled they would takeover the gym and the library and saturate the entire campus with demonstrations, picket against me along Darul Aman Road, and inform the Afghan and international media to cover the story. After an intervention by Dr. Sharif Fayez, the radical Islamist students promised to refrain from protesting against me if their demand (to fire me from AUAF) was met.
Despite the intimidation and threats, I succeeded in hosting a blood drive, which was, frankly speaking, a bit disorganized but still in terms of the campaign, the AUAF blood drive was, on a per capita basis (ratio of donations to the community size), the most successful collection organized by foreign civilians in Afghanistan during the last 12 years. I was so energized and excited that I wanted to expand my efforts. Only a few international staff (Dale Larson, Dr. Fayez, Angie from PDI, etc.) donated blood. The vast majority were Afghan local staff and students. The majority of Afghans really do care about serving the public good.
Sadly, when I asked my fellow American colleagues, why they didn’t donate blood, they said they forgot or dismissed my question.
The following day, I met with the Provost and informed her that I wanted to empower the civic-minded students to host blood drives at AUAF campus every four months, or once a season. The response: No more blood drives. It’s too controversial. In the end, the AUAF administration supported the radical Islamists. No more blood drives and no more Nemat Sadat.
Everyone knows that I returned to Afghanistan to spread enlightenment and promote democracy in the darkest corner of the world. Unfortunately, the AUAF administrators are only concerned about their jobs and paychecks and the Islamist students only care to preserve the status quo (radical Islam & tribal warfare) even though they attend the American University of Afghanistan and will do anything (even cheat and plagiarize) to get a US Fulbright scholarship.
I don’t care about losing my job. But what stings me inside is that I could have developed a civic-minded ethos in Afghanistan if AUAF administration would have supported me from day one instead of allowing the bullies to win.
If AUAF would have hosted four or five more blood drives since the one I organized, then today thousands of Afghans who are dead would probably still be alive.