Three Afghan students visiting Georgetown for last week’s Afghan-American student exchange program went missing from the Georgetown Marriott Conference Center in the Leavey Center on the night of Tuesday, Jan. 28. Although the students have yet to be located, the university confirmed that some of the missing students have family in the United States.

The three students, Soma Akrami, Muzhda Asadi and Nazifa Sarwari – all 24 years old – are all from Kabul. The students stayed on the fourth floor with some of the chaperones, and two of the students, Akrami and Sawari, were roommates.

“The absence of the three students certainly had a negative effect on the mood of the conference, but I was surprised how everyone remained positive,” Mary Nagle (COL ’05), one of the Georgetown delegates, said. “The other three Afghan girls were visibly upset. They seemed ashamed and embarrassed and it took some coaxing on our part, but it was still an amazing program.”

Chaperones discovered that the three students were missing the following morning, Jan. 29, at 8:00 a.m., when they failed to report to the first morning working session.

“Georgetown administrators and Afghan chaperones contacted campus security, the Embassy of Afghanistan and local family members of the visiting students. All worked with the appropriate authorities in an attempt to locate the students,” university spokesperson Gloria Lacap said.

After contacting the Department of Public Safety, the D.C. etropolitan Police Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Services, law enforcement interviewed the three remaining students. The MPD is treating the case as a routine missing persons case.

Conference organizers cancelled a scheduled White House visit with First Lady Laura Bush and Chief of Staff Andrew Card and rescheduled the meeting.

Georgetown is no longer part of the investigation as to the whereabouts of the students, Lacap said.

“Now that the program has concluded and the other students have returned to Afghanistan, this matter is being handled by the Afghan Embassy and appropriate local and federal authorities,” she said.

At press time the Afghan Embassy was unavailable for comment.

However, Nagle said that the students in the program suspected that the three missing students had left to stay with family in the U.S., possibly for an indefinite period of time.

“At first we were unclear about what had happened,” she said, “but it soon became clear by the end that they had left with family to stay in the U.S.; at least it was my understanding that they wanted to stay here.”

The conference, “Blueprint for the Future: Connecting Afghan and American Students,” planned by the Afghan Ministry for Higher Education, Looking Glass Productions, an Arlington, Va.-based public relations firm and Georgetown University, lasted from Jan. 24-28 and was scheduled as a follow up to last July’s Afghan-American Summit at Georgetown.

The conference, which had six Afghan students and 11 Georgetown students, was originally scheduled to have 10 Afghan students and 10 Georgetown students, but the four Afghan male students could not gain the necessary clearance to enter the United States.

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