By Anissa Tanweer

Three decades of nearly constant warfare have hobbled Afghanistan’s educational system. Two women from Tucson are helping to fix it. To mark the nine year anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, they talked with Arizona Spotlight about their projects and shared their observations about the impact of foreign civilians working in that country.

The library at Kabul University, Afghanistan’s foremost institution of higher learning, was in shambles when University of Arizona librarian Atifa Rawan first saw it in 2002. According to Rawan, it had been destroyed largely out of desperation. During the civil war of the early 1990’s, residents of the surrounding district were cut off from fuel supplies – so they resorted to looting the library and using books for kindling. The Taliban inflicted further damage when they came to power, destroying parts of the remaining collection that conflicted with their ideology. Rawan and her colleague at the University of Arizona, Yan Han, have been working for nearly nine years to build Afghanistan a digital library system.

Anna Hacker is working in Afghanistan to reach a population traditionally under-served by the education system – widows and street working children. As an independent entity, she’s building a new educational facility for the Afghan Women’s Education Center, an indigenous Afghan non-governmental organization.

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Atifa Rawan teaches academic librarians and faculty at Kabul University how to navigate the digital library system.

Atifa Rawan teaches academic librarians and faculty at Kabul University how to navigate the digital library system.

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Anna Hacker in Kabul, Afghanistan with several of the children that benefit from the programs at the Afghan Women’s Education Center.

Anna Hacker in Kabul, Afghanistan with several of the children that benefit from the programs at the Afghan Women's Education Center