Cal Poly social sciences professor Maliha Zulfacar, a native of Afghanistan who has actively spent her summers aiding in the rebuilding of the country, has been appointed as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Germany.
Zulfacar, who spends the academic year at Cal Poly teaching classes about global ethnic conflict and geopolitics, is the first woman to be appointed as an ambassador from Afghanistan.
“It is a great honor for me,” Zulfacar said in a press release. “Having been the first woman appointed as an ambassador from Afghanistan gives me the opportunity to serve my country of birth and also to demonstrate that when Afghan women are given the chance for education, they too will be able to participate effectively in the reconstruction of the country.”
In addition to becoming the first female ambassador of Afghanistan, Zulfacar, who was born and raised in Afghanistan’s capitol, Kabul, was also the first female to leave the country to pursue a college education in the United States at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio in the mid ’70s.
After earning a degree in sociology in Cincinnati, Zulfacar briefly returned to Afghanistan to teach at Kabul University before fleeing the country to Germany after the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in 1979.
Living in Germany from 1979 to 1985, Zulfacar became fluent in German while attending the German Technical Institute at Braunschweig. In 1985 Zulfacar left Germany for the United States to raise her two children in California. Zulfacar joined the social sciences department at Cal Poly in 1988.
In 1995, Zulfacar returned to Germany to earn her doctorate in sociology from Paderborn University-her doctoral thesis compared and contrasted the experience of Afghan immigrants in both Germany and the United States.
After the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, Zulfacar returned to her native country for the first time in 23 years and had been spending the summers teaching social sciences at Kabul University.
Since returning, not only had Zulfacar been working to rebuild the nation’s higher education system, but she had also been actively encouraging Afghan women to pursue higher education at Kabul University and abroad.
In December of 2005, Zulfacar was able to secure student visas for two Afghan women with the help of Cal Poly President Warren Baker and U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif. Zulfacar had also been instrumental in the creation of the Cal Poly Afghan Educational Outreach Project-a fund designed to aid the Afghan students who want to pursue an education in the United States.
Though Zulfacar was not available for comment, her peers within the sociology department feel that Zulfacar was an excellent choice for the ambassadorial role.
“Professor Zulfacar is extremely committed to her work,” said sociology professor Barbara Andre. “If the amount of effort she put into educating us all on Afghanistan goes into her new role, she is going to do quite well.”
“It is no surprise that she would be called to serve in this distinguished and important role by her native land,” Cal Poly President Warren Baker said in a press release. “I am confident she will bring to her ambassadorial duties the same wisdom, insight and enterprising spirit that she has shown as a Cal Poly professor. We wish her the best of luck as she embarks for Germany.”
Since her appointment as the ambassador of Afghanistan to Germany, Zulfacar had left Cal Poly on Sept. 1 for Afghanistan and then Berlin.
However, according to journalism department chair George Ramos, the social sciences department chair Barbara Mori said Tuesday morning during a CLA chair meeting that Zulfacar had not yet taken the position because the former Afghan ambassador to Germany has refused to relieve his post. Though Mori was not available for comment, two department chairs present at the meeting, who preferred their names not be disclosed, confirmed the statement.