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Ex-Taliban spokesman now a Yale student

February 28, 2006


WASHINGTON, Feb 27: A former spokesman for the Taliban, Rahmatullah Hashemi, has enrolled as a student at America’s prestigious Yale University where he has taken a class on terrorism, The New York Times Magazine reported on Sunday.

The ex-Taliban spin doctor and “roving ambassador”, who has spent time in the presence of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, is now a Yale freshman improving his English through a special non-degree programme.

Hashemi, who once publicly defended the Taliban, told the magazine, however, that he started having serious doubts about its harsh moral codes as early as 1998 when women were being lashed with leather strips and executions were occurring in Kabul’s football stadium.

He said he fled Afghanistan for Pakistan in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington fearing a US bombing campaign.

Hashemi said a former Taliban minister persuaded him to return to Kabul in early 2004 to clear his name with the Americans, despite his fears he would be whisked to the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Following several interviews with two Americans, one of whom only identified herself to him as “Michelle”, Hashemi said he was told: “You can go.”

An American friend suggested he apply to study at the renowned Yale University, so he obtained a student visa from the US embassy in Islamabad and caught a flight to the United States.

Months later, the dark-haired, bearded Hashemi is trying to adapt to his new academic surroundings, attending Harvard-Yale football games and keeping in touch with his wife and son back in Pakistan, the report added.

“In some ways I’m the luckiest person in the world,” he was quoted as saying in the New York Times magazine. “I could have ended up in Guantanamo Bay. Instead I ended up at Yale.”