Time and location

Tuesday, 6 March 2018, 19:00 – 21:00
Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Festsaal
Favoritenstraße 15a, 1040 Vienna


Setara Hassan
Social Scientist and journalist at Zan TV, a TV channel that focuses primarily on women´s issues and challenges in Afghanistan

Sanaa Alimia
Political Scientist, currently research fellow based at the Leibniz Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin, Germany/Pakistan

Jelena Bjelica
Publicist, Afghanistan Analysts Network

Ali Ahmad, VIDC

Michael Fanizadeh, VIDC

Languages: English and German with simultaneous interpretation

Registration: fanizadeh@vidc.org

Afghanistan in Pakistan

© Noorullah Shirzad
© Noorullah Shirzad


Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees over the past four decades. After the US-led invasion in 2001 and the fall of the Taliban regime shortly after, many of these refugees returned to Afghanistan. Nevertheless, around three million Afghan refugees are still currently living in Pakistan, while more than one million Afghans were not registered by the UNHCR and are, therefore, living in the country without official residency status. In 2016 Pakistan began deporting large numbers of Afghan refugees. The NGO Human Rights Watch says 600,000 Afghans have been affected and calls the deportation of Afghan refugees in 2016 “the largest unlawful forced return of refugees in recent times.” In 2017 another 100,000 refugees had to return to Afghanistan from Pakistan.
Now another two million Afghan refugees in Pakistan may be threatened with deportation. The government in Islamabad has announced that more than two million Afghan refugees have to leave the country within 60 days and their residency status will no longer be extended. The main reasons given for this are economic and security concerns, which increases fears of further mass deportations. Can something like this really be done?
The deported Afghans are returning to a country that is shaped more than ever by growing revolts and the threat of the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS). The withdrawal of the Western troops from Afghanistan in 2015 again shifted the balance of power in favor of the Salafi movement, while Pakistan is often accused of supporting and supplying the Taliban and the IS on its soil. The security situation in Afghanistan continues to be catastrophic. In January 2018 the US State Department warns on its website against traveling to all parts of the country due to the high number of “kidnappings, hostage taking, suicide bombings, widespread military combat operations, landmines, terrorist and insurgent attacks.”


Setara Hassan

was born in Afghanistan and immigrated to Denmark as a young teenager. She did her masters in International Business and Politics in Copenhagen Business School and returned to Afghanistan working with the United Nations. She has since been involved in multiple development projects in Afghanistan. Highly passionate about women empowerment, she is currently the head of Zan TV, a TV channel that focuses primarily on women´s issues and challenges in Afghanistan.

Sanaa Alimia

is a research fellow based at the Leibniz-ZMO, Berlin. She holds at PhD from the Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS, London. Sanaa used to teach at the Department of Politics and International Studies, SOAS (2011-2014) and also taught at the Department of Politics at the University of Peshawar (2013-2014, 2016-2017) as a Visiting Associate Professor. Sanaa's work concentrates on Afghan refugees in Pakistan. Her manuscript 'Afghan Refugees in Pakistan' will be out in 2018.

Jelena Bjelica

joined Afghanistan Analysts Network as a researcher in October 2015. Between 2010 and 2014 she worked with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Afghanistan and later with the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University (ACKU). Before joining UN, she worked as journalist. She spent ten years covering Kosovo, Macedonia and South Serbia regions, for a number of publications from Southeast and Central Europe. Her recent academic publications include: Organised crime and international aid subversion: evidence from Colombia and Afghanistan, Third World Quarterly (2015); Human Trafficking and National Security in Serbia, in Migrations and Media, Moore, K., Gross, B. Threadgold, T. (eds.), Peter Lang Publishing Group (2012). She holds MA in journalism from Cardiff University. Bjelica was honoured the Press Freedom Award by Reporters without Borders in 2003.

Ali Ahmad

is project manager at VIDC and is currently conducting a qualitative study on the access to the labor market in Afghanistan, with a special focus on gender. The study will be implemented in the framework of the project Dard Kush, coordinated by Caritas Austria and funded by ADA. Before, Ahmad worked as a researcher and journalist in Afghanistan for various international research and media organizations. Trained as medical doctor, he graduated from a master’s program in peace and conflict studies at the European Peace University in Schlaining, Austria.