The Institute for Law and Society in Afghanistan e.V. (ILSAF) is an association founded in 2022 that deals with law in its social context in Afghanistan. It was founded against the background of the regime change in Kabul in August 2021, as a result of which many Afghan researchers lost their prospects of continuing their work and left the country. The researcher Tilmann J. Röder, who worked in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2018, developed the concept for the new academic association.

The main goals of the Institute are the networking of interested academics,  publication of research results and the implementation of research-based projects. The ILSAF was registered as an association under German law and is independent and politically neutral according to its statutes.

The Institute expressly understands the concept of law broadly and includes not only all forms of state law, but also international law, Islamic law, customary law and their respective institutions and practices.

The ILSAF board includes the professor of Islamic law and ethics Idris Nassery (speaker) and the legal scholars Suhailah Akbari and Tilmann J. Röder.

The ILSAF Advisory Board is chaired by Islamic studies scholar and former law professor Mohammad Hashim Kamali and Swedish law professor Sari Kouvo.

About Us


Idris Nassery is Professor for Islamic law and ethics at the Paderborn Institute of Islamic Theology, Paderborn University. He was born in Afghanistan and still was and is still involved in different NGOs and academic exchange Programs in Afghanistan.

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Tilmann Röder functioned as founding director of the Hamida Barmaki Organization for the Rule of Law in Kabul and adviser to the Stabilization Department of the German Foreign Office. Due to his research in international cooperation, he still is committed to Afghanistan.

Dr. Suhailah Akbari comes from Takhar Afghanistan where she was born, raised, and completed her high school education. She has a bachelor’s in law and political science from Kabul University, an LL.M from the University of Washington through a Fulbright Scholarship, and a doctorate in law from Passau University.  Her professional life portrays her mainly as an educator and academic – from offering literacy courses to illiterate young women and girls as well as language and science subjects in private courses to her peers during her high school education to teaching law for several years at Takhar Public University where she was promoted to associate professor in 2020. She also has working  experience as, inter alia, director for the coordination of international commitments with the former President of Afghanistan; trade and transit legal expert in the Afghan government, and program manager and consultant with various national and international organizations.

ILSAF Advisory Board

Mohammad Hashim Kamali is an Afghan Islamic scholar and former professor of Islamic law and
jurisprudence at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). Kamali is Founding CEO of
the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies, Malaysia.

In addition, he was a member of the academic advisory council within the research unit Key Concepts
in Interreligious Discourses.

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Sari Kouvo currently acts as an adviser for the Secretariat for the Security and Stability in the Sahel (S.P3S) at the European External Action Service (EEAS). Prior she was the co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network and adviser for the European Union Special Representative for Afghanistan.

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The ILSAF continues the series of Afghan Legal Studies Conferences that took place in Kabul between 2014 and 2018. In its first annual conference in 2022, the ILSAF will deal with the legal consequences of regime change in Afghanistan.

Another public event takes place once a year at the University of Paderborn, which is primarily aimed at a German audience and addresses topics of current interest.

In addition, the Institute publishes the Journal of Afghan Legal Studies (JALS) annually. Originally established as the Yearbook of Afghan Legal Studies in 2015, the journal has been published in Kabul since 2016. The JALS, which publishes articles in Dari, Pashto and English, is the first Afghan legal journal to conduct a peer review process (ISSN 2522-3070). Founding editors Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Tilmann J. Röder, and Luftforahaman Saeed added Suhailah Akbari and Wali M. Naseh as co-editors in 2021. In 2022 the editorial board expanded to include Idris Nassery, Sari Kouvo and Shamshad Pasarlay. The Journal of Afghan Legal Studies is published as a freely accessible online journal.

The Hamida Barmaki Ph.D. Scholarship Program

Practice Areas

Afghanistan’s demand for higher legal education strongly increased after the fall of the first Taliban regime in 2001. From 2005 on, the Afghanistan team of the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law supported the country’s public universities’ efforts to modernise their curricula. In 2010-2011, the team developed the concept for an LL.M. program at Kabul University. A year later, the team suspended this work due to corrupt practices at the law faculty. Instead, it launched a Ph.D. Scholarship Program in order to promote early- and mid-career lecturers as future agents of change who would change the law faculties from inside in the future.

Under the supervision of Dr. Tilmann Röder, the team of the Max Planck Institute (later the Foundation) selected thirteen outstanding Afghan jurists who began writing their theses at universities abroad. As a necessary precondition, all candidates had already obtained a master’s degrees in the USA, Australia, France, Italy or China. The scholarship program provided not only financial support but also a broad variety of academic courses and guidance by experienced Max Planck fellows. The topics they chose ranged from international economic law to constitutional law, administrative law, human rights, legal pluralism, family law and intellectual property law.

Most of the Ph.D. candidates were law lecturers from Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad, Mazar-e Sharif, and Takhar. Many of them continued teaching at their home faculties while doing their research. Others accepted important government positions and became presidential advisers, ambassadors, or human rights commissioners. For this reason, none of the theses could be completed after the funding of the German Foreign Office had expired at the end of 2017. Therefore, Dr. Röder and a group of committed university professors decided to continue their support on a private basis. Five years on, the program is considered not only an enormous success but also an important experience in regard of the possibilities and limitations of strengthening higher legal education in post-conflict environments.

In its final phase, the Hamida Barmaki Ph.D. Scholarship Program is coordinated by the Institute for Law and Society on Afghanistan. Besides supporting the remaining candidates with feedback and advice, the ILSAF team is available for requests from Afghans who aspire to write a doctorate or Ph.D. in the area of law or Islamic theology, and who fulfil the necessary conditions. These are primarily an internationally recognized master’s degree and sufficient language skills. While ILSAF cannot offer any financial support, its team can advise on how to find supervisors and scholarships. Interested scholars may send their CV and research exposé to