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Ali Wardak

A shoemaker's kindness and Pollock Halls feature in Professor Ali Wardak's memories from his PhD days. In his career since, the criminologist has earned praise for his research which influenced the reform of the justice system in Afghanistan.

Name Professor Ali Wardak

PhD in Criminology

Year of Graduation 1995

Your time at the University

Dr Ali Wardak

I chose Edinburgh University for its Centre of Criminology and the Social and Philosophical Study of Law - now the Centre for Law and Society.

My first night in Edinburgh was at Pollock Halls, where I stayed until my graduation. Pollock Halls slowly became my second home, where I also became an Assistant Warden. I did not meet any Afghans in the city for six years and dearly missed my mother back home. Much of my life revolved around my PhD thesis and jogging around Arthur’s Seat.

With little money to spend, I vividly remember taking my shoe to a shoemaker for repair. The shoemaker said that the hole in my shoe was quite big and suggested that I buy new shoes. I was not amused as buying new shoes cost £12 – around 1000 afghanis, which was enough to buy several pairs of shoes in Afghanistan.

Disappointingly, a second shoemaker’s response was similar to the first one. I did not give up, and found a third shoemaker who told me that the repair would cost £5. I offered £1, but the red-moustached shoemaker angrily asked me to leave his small shop. I did not and when offered £2, he stared straight into my eyes and asked in his Scottish accent: “Where do you come from?”

When I said “Afghanistan”, the man suddenly cheered up and shook my hand. He repaired my shoe on the spot, and when I was about to pay him, the shoemaker told me: “This is free for you”.

When I insisted on paying, he told me: “Afghanistan has the best hashish in the world”. Then the shoemaker told me that in the 1970s, he travelled to Afghanistan as a hippy, and he had “a really, really good time in that most beautiful country of the world”.

From 2006 to 2008, I worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kabul, and co-authored the 2007 Afghanistan Human Development Report where a “hybrid model” for a post-Taliban justice system in Afghanistan was proposed.

Professor Ali WardakProfessor of Criminology, University of South Wales

Your experiences since leaving the University

As one of UK’s finest academic institutions, Edinburgh University provided me the opportunity not only to be taught by prominent academics such as Professors David Garland, Neil McCormick and Peter Young. It also played a decisive role in my personal and professional development by providing me the opportunity to meet world’s leading scholars - including Professors Leon Radzinowicz, Jürgen Habermas, Zygmunt Bauman, Edward Said and Andreas von Hirsch.

Soon after obtaining my PhD I started teaching at the University of South Wales (USW), where I am now Professor of Criminology. Also, from 2006 to 2008, I worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kabul, and co-authored the 2007 Afghanistan Human Development Report where a “hybrid model” for a post-Taliban justice system in Afghanistan was proposed.

I am Vice President of the South Asian Society of Criminology and Victimology and have been an invited speaker at major conferences and forums in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the USA. I have published widely, and in November 2017, won the “Best International Impact Award” at the University of South Wales.

I am also the joint winner (with Professor John Braithwaite) of the 2013 Radzinowicz Prize, which is awarded by The British Journal of Criminology for the article published each year which, in the opinion of the editors, most contributes to the knowledge of criminal justice and criminal justice issues.

On winning the prize, I was congratulated by President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan through an official letter of tributes.

Alumni wisdom

University is not only about the lecture hall, PowerPoint lecture slides, and lectures’ faces. It is much more than these; students must make the most of the time, energy and money that they invest in higher education: attend guest lectures; become member of university’s societies of your choice; participate in debates, demonstrations, and never forget using the University’s sports centre – ‘healthy mind is in healthy body’.

Related Links

Edinburgh Law School - Centre for Law and Society

South Asian Society of Criminology and Victimology (external link)

Dr Ali Wardak receives USW’s Best International Impact Award (external link)

2013 Radzinowicz Prize citation (external link)