Berkeley Law Article: A Harrowing Journey for Afghan Journalist and Berkeley Law Scholar Maria Raheen

Maria Raheen fully grasped the irony. The more achievements she attained that elevated her standing and reputation, the more perilous her life would become.

As a journalist and educator, Raheen advocated fiercely for women’s rights and media freedom in Afghanistan — views that stood in sharp conflict with the Taliban. So when the Taliban regained power in August 2021, she knew staying in her home country would not be possible.

Still, Raheen never imagined just how stressful fleeing Afghanistan would be. No one could. While en route with her family from Balkh to Kabul in order to evacuate through United States military flights, they were in a car accident that broke both of her legs.

“Days later, we returned to Kabul but were unable to get on any of the emergency flights because of my situation and injury,” she says. “My family and I hid in a house in Kabul under the Taliban rule for about three months, until we were finally evacuated from Kabul to Albania.”

“My life in Afghanistan had been like hundreds of other intellectual and active women who fought and worked to get their human rights and freedom. We informed more women every day to get freedom so that we could have a humane society away from violence. But these sacrifices and struggles still could not open a place in the field of Afghan society.”

Raheen’s family settled in Germany — where she had built relationships while doing some work with the Deutsche Welle Broadcasting Network — and they are now learning the language and trying to start a new life. She came to Berkeley Law earlier this year as a visiting scholar of the school’s Human Rights Center(opens in a new tab) and spent a few months there, but medical costs and the need to help support her family brought her back to Germany.

Education leader 

Married with four children, Raheen spent 23 years as a faculty member at Balkh University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and was the dean for five years before fleeing Afghanistan. In 2010 she founded the Taj Institute of Higher Education, a university licensed by the Afghanistan Government’s Ministry of Higher Education, and led Viyar, an institute that worked to provide social services for women.