What Life is Like in Iraq for Professors
These stories are heartbreaking. Please take the time to read the entire article:
Violence and lawlessness in Iraq is "dismantling" the country's higher education system and creating a climate of terror on campuses, according to Iraqi professors who attended the Middle East Studies Association's conference Sunday.
"The students are disappointed in America and they say it now openly, even on the television: 'Bring back Saddam and we will apologize and he will restore order to the country,'" said Dr. Saad Jawad, professor of political science at Baghdad University.
The professors spoke on one of dozens of panels throughout the three-day conference, which featured Middle East scholars from the United States and around the world.
Speaking to a crowded conference room, the Iraqi professors' bleak picture of a life under siege brought some in the audience to tears. Since the U.S. invasion in 2003, they said, thousands of Iraqi professors have fled the country. More than 200 have been assassinated and the rest live in fear of saying anything that might offend any number of groups, all suspected of murder and mayhem in Iraq. When asked who was behind the killings, the professors' list was long: Sunnis, Shias, radical Islamists, Americans, Iranians, Israelis, Kuwaitis.
"The problems in Iraq are bigger than I can express," said Dr. Taher Al Bakaa, the former minister of higher education in Iraq, now a visiting scholar at Harvard University. Hundreds of scholars have applied to come to the United States, but only a small percentage are accepted, according to the Scholars at Risk Network, a group that helps threatened professors.
Conference organizer Dr. Dina Rizk Khoury, associate professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University, says the panel was one of the weekend's most critical. Talking about Baghdad University, she calls the situation in Iraq a "systematic attempt to dismantle what was once the premier institute of higher education in the Arab world." Khoury says academic freedom in the country has fallen victim to anarchy.
Jawad, who had arrived in Boston three days earlier, said his classes are cancelled so frequently, he has taught only twice since the semester began in October. When not working, he rarely leaves his house. He said a death threat posted on his office door makes him afraid to go outside with his family in case an attempt is made on his life. Earlier in the month, his colleague, Jassim al-Asadi, dean of administration and economics at Baghdad University, was gunned down with his family in their car. Many of Jawad's students have had relatives and friends killed, including one young male doctoral student whose father was gunned down in his doorway.
"Nobody knows the reason," Jawad said. "I am depressed."