By Shahla Murtazaie
The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2012: Burhanuddin Rabbani was the leader of the Jamiat-i-Islami party, an ethnic Tajik-centered group that fought against the Taliban, against the Soviets and later against other factions during the civil war in the 1990s. Human Rights Watch said in a 2005 report that he should be investigated for atrocities committed, “including intentional killing of civilians, beating of civilians, abductions based on ethnicity, looting and forced labor.” (Photo: RAWA.org)
Afghan senators on Tuesday called for Parliament to take a final decision regarding the name change of Education University to Martyr of Peace Burhanuddin Rabbani University.
Student protests over the name change, which have continued for more than two weeks, turned violent yesterday with up to 20 students arrested for blocking the entrance to the university and vandalising the name plaque. They have all since been released, officials said.
"We should take a national decision, and discuss what was the need for changing the name of a state-owned university," Senator Zalmai said Tuesday. "[President Hamid Karzai] should have first consulted with the teachers and then taken the decision. Karzai has said he made a mistake."
Other senators urged the Ministry of Higher Education to take action.
"We urged the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs to implement a decision, and we ask the Higher Education Ministry to take necessary steps to solve this problem," first vice president of the Senate Mohammad Alam Yezedyar said.
The senators have summoned the Higher Education Minister to come and answer questions from the senators and discuss a solution to the problem.
Students have been protesting almost daily since Sunday Sept 23 over Karzai's decision to change the institution's name.
While initial protests were peaceful, the students warned that if their demand – to change the name back to its original one – was not met, their protest would turn violent.
A group of students met with Karzai last week, who reportedly promised them a solution would come soon, according to a Presidential office statement.
Karzai announced the name change on the first anniversary of the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani who was killed while he was head of Afghanistan's High Peace Council by a suicide bomber.
Teachers and students at the university say the name change is too political given Rabbani's involvement in the civil war and as a political leader for a party. Several teachers have reportedly resigned and most classes have been cancelled over the two weeks, students claim.