[Reader-list] Iraqi academics targeted

Ravikant ravikant at sarai.net
Wed Jul 14 08:48:40 IST 2004

This is a forward from avinash at sarai dot net

Any guess who is doing this?


Iraqi academics targeted in murder spree
By Robert Fisk in Baghdad
14 July 2004

The Mongols stained the Tigris black with the ink of the Iraqi books they
destroyed. Today's Mongols prefer to destroy the Iraqi teachers of books.

Since the Anglo-American invasion, they have murdered at least 13 academics
at the University of Baghdad alone and countless others across Iraq. History
professors, deans of college and Arabic tutors have all fallen victim to the
war on learning. Only six weeks ago - virtually unreported, of course - the
female dean of the college of law in Mosul was beheaded in her bed, along
with her husband.

Just who the modern-day Mongols are remains a painful mystery of our story.
Disgruntled students they are not. Baathist-hunters some of them might be -
all heads of academic departments were forced to join Saddam's party - but
none of the murdered Baghdad university staff were believed to be anything
more than card-carriers.

Even the former president of the university, Dr Mohamed Arawi - a surgeon
shot at his clinic a year ago - was regarded as a liberal, humane man. But
professors now watch the doors of their lecture theatres as carefully as
they do their students. And who can blame them? After all, Dr Sabri
al-Bayatiy of the department of geography was shot dead only a month ago,
just outside the arts department, in front of many of his students.

"He was gunned down just over there by the wall," one of his colleagues told
me yesterday. "Many students saw his killer but they could do nothing. Two
bullets. That's all."

Talk to the academics at Baghdad University, and the names roll out. Dr Nafa
Aboud of the department of Arabic was murdered just two months ago. Dr
Hissam Sharif of the department of history was sitting at the door of his
Baghdad home when the killers came, shooting him and two friends.

Dr Falah al-Dulaimi, assistant dean of college at Mustansariya University in
Baghdad, was shot in his college office last year.

"What can we do?" Saad Hassani of Baghdad University's English department
asked me. "Just a month ago, my son Ali - a student in our biology
department - was kidnapped. He walked outside the campus on a hot day, took
a taxi and the driver offered him a drink of cold water. Then he lost
consciousness. When he came to he was in a dark room, blindfolded, and they
beat him and tortured him with electricity.

"Then he heard two groups of men arguing, one lot saying, 'You've got the
wrong one'. They threw him out of a car beside a road. But at least they
didn't kill him. He will not leave his home now. He flunked his exams. What
am I to think?"

Other university staff suspect that there is a campaign to strip Iraq of its
academics, to complete the destruction of Iraq's cultural identity which
began with the destruction of the Baghdad Koranic library, the national
archives and the looting of the archaeological museum when the American army
entered Baghdad.

"Maybe the Kuwaitis want to take their revenge for what we did to them in
1991," a lecturer said. "Maybe the Israelis are trying to make sure that we
can never have an intellectual infrastructure here.

"Yes, you suggest it could be the 'resistance'. But what is the
'resistance'? We don't know who it is. Is it nationalist? Why should they
want to get rid of us? Is it religious? The arts department has become a
pulpit for Islamism. But these people are part of the university."

In the southern city of Nasiriyah, many departmental heads have received
threatening letters, ordering them to leave Iraq. At least one professor in
the university has been murdered. The dean of the college of law in Mosul,
murdered last month, was the most gruesome killing. "She was in bed with her
husband when they came for her," a Baghdad colleague told me yesterday.
"They coolly shot both of them in their bed. Then they cut off both their
heads with knives."

Both arts and science faculty members have been victims. Dr Abdul-Latif
al-Maya was working in urban planning in the Baghdad University geography
department when he was killed at his home. Professor Wajih Mahjoub was
murdered in the College of Physical Education in April last year as US
troops were entering Baghdad.

"Dr Arawi told me only two days before he was murdered that he had nothing
to fear," a friend of his recalled yesterday. "He said, 'I never hurt
anyone. Everyone respects me.' On the day of his death, the killers came
claiming to be patients. They shot him in his surgery."

In the early weeks of his occupation proconsulship, Paul Bremer fired all
senior academics who were members of the Baath party. "They went home and
tried to leave the country," another Baghdad arts professor complained. "But
those who stayed are now mostly too frightened to return because they have
been named - and they fear for their lives."

Yesterday morning, I visited one arts department at the university to find
it entirely empty of staff. Each teacher's room was closed with a large
   14 July 2004 11:52

More information about the reader-list mailing list