As with many in the international education community around the world, ACA was stunned by the news on 19 August 2011 that the British Council compound in Kabul, Afghanistan had been stormed by armed gunmen. According to the BBC, this attack against the UK’s flagship educational and cultural organisation abroad coincided with the anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence from British rule in 1919. The situation apparently involved some dozen attackers, and ultimately resulted in the deaths of at least as many individuals. All of the fatalities – save one – were Afghans. None who lost their lives were British Council staff, but rather police or security forces who were tasked with supporting the British Council or who simply responded to the emergency.
Three British Council staff members were in the compound at the time of the attack, and all were rescued. The British Council indicated immediately after the resolution of the event that it was “extremely grateful to the Afghan and international forces who secured” the safety of their staff. Further, the British Council remains firmly committed to its efforts in the country to help young Afghans – particularly prospective leaders – connect with the “wider world” through educational programming, English language instruction and other opportunities.
ACA stands in solidarity with the British Council, one of its founding members, and extends heartfelt condolences to the individuals and their loved ones who were directly affected by these deeply disturbing events. We salute the ongoing commitment of the British Council to foster enhanced understanding through international educational engagement, despite the profound challenges that this work sometimes entails.