One Year After He Fled His Native Country, an Afghan Rebuilds His Life at Tufts

With a research position at The Fletcher School, a former bank official shares his expertise

When the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last August, Mir Ahmad Shekib Mir knew he had to leave his homeland. A longtime banking official with strong ties to the West, including Tufts, he had been critical of the militant group and his views put him and his family at risk.

“If I left, maybe one day I can serve [my country],” he said recently, describing his thinking when he fled. “But if I stayed, I wouldn’t have been able to say or do anything.”

One year later, Mir is living in Medford and working as a research analyst with The Fletcher School Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion. In 2020, he was a fellow in the nine-month executive education program, burnishing his professional skills and forming strong ties with faculty that proved to be life-changing a year later.

“I am the luckiest Afghan evacuee, because of one reason: Tufts and Fletcher,” he said. When the Afghan government collapsed, a team of people associated with Tufts, including the financial inclusion program staff and research professor Dyan Mazurana, came to his aid. “There was no hope for the future,” he recalled. “It was like an angel is coming to support you.”

Mir and his extended family left Afghanistan after a harrowing journey in late August 2021, as part of a group assisted by The Fletcher School’s international network. Some of his siblings were involved in promoting human rights, women’s rights, democracy, moderation, and literacy, he said, and those efforts also put them at risk.

“Mir was an outstanding participant in our program and has deep knowledge from his own experience in Afghanistan. He’s the perfect person to help us improve our offerings for our students.”

 

Melita Sawyer, associate director of the Fletcher Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion

The family initially found refuge in Albania, where they lived for about eight months before making it to Massachusetts. They have received free housing for a year through an arrangement made by Elizabeth Ammons, the Harriet H. Fay Professor of Literature at Tufts. Mir’s two school-age sons started attending the Medford public schools in the spring and did well, even though their educations had been disrupted, he said. “They adjusted very quickly.”

In his new position at Fletcher, Mir looks forward to sharing his expertise with others committed to improving the economies of developing nations.

“Mir was an outstanding participant in our program and has deep knowledge from his own experience in Afghanistan,” said Melita Sawyer, associate director of the Fletcher Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion. “He’s the perfect person to help us improve our offerings for our students.”

The Fletcher program helps policymakers from public institutions in developing and emerging markets learn how to make financial products and services like savings, credit, and insurance more accessible and affordable. Increasing such access is a strategy to create stronger and more sustainable economic growth.

Born in Kabul in 1981, Mir fled with his family as a child in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He grew up in Pakistan but returned to Afghanistan in late 2001, after the collapse of the Taliban regime that had taken power in 1996. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Kabul University in 2006 and worked for the central bank of Afghanistan, known as Da Afghanistan Bank, in Kabul from 2008 until late 2020.

While on an educational leave from the central bank, Mir earned a master’s degree in economics from Williams College in 2016. On his return, he was appointed the director-general of the bank’s Financial Inclusion Department. He led its efforts to develop and implement the first national financial inclusion strategy for Afghanistan.

After leaving the bank, Mir contributed to articles about economic issues and corruption in Afghanistan. He had been preparing to teach the principles he learned at Fletcher to students at Kabul University, starting in the fall of 2021, but he said, “I did not know where destiny would bring me.”

His current role at Tufts is a far cry from what he had thought he might be doing when he left Afghanistan. “To be honest, my plan was to take any job and work there to feed my family and help my children study,” he said. But now, in addition to helping the next generation of fellows at Fletcher learn about financial inclusion, he is working as an independent columnist, writing about economic issues in Afghanistan.

As a research analyst, Mir aims to help current fellows at Fletcher by teaching and by reviewing and providing feedback on their research and policy papers.

“I’m more than glad that I can share the knowledge at the international level, with people all over the world,” he said. “The only thing that makes me sad is that I can’t share the knowledge and expertise with the institution I love, the central bank in Afghanistan.”

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