Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Killing Iraq's academics and professionals

AN under-reported aspect of the agony of Iraq since occupation is what looks like a systematic camapign to wipe out or drive out the country's intellectual and professional people, as well as wrecking its education and health systems, which used to be among the best in the Middle East.

On July 14, 2004, Robert Fisk reported from Baghdad:
"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 when the American army entered Baghdad."

According to the United Nations University, some 84 per cent of Iraq's institutions of higher education have already been burnt, looted or destroyed. The Iraqi Union of University Lecturers reported last year that some 250 professors had been assassinated. Among them were Muhammad al-Rawi, President of Baghdad University (July 27, 2003); Dr. Abdul Latif al-Mayah a Professor of Political Science at Baghdad's Mustansiriya University (late January 2003); Dr. Nafa Aboud, a Professor of Arabic Literature at the University of Baghdad; Dr Sabri al-Bayati; a Geographer at the University of Baghdad; Dr. Falah al-Dulaimi, Assistant Dean of College at Mustansariya University; Dr. Hissam Sharif, Department of History of the University of Baghdad; and Professor Wajih Mahjoub of the College of Physical Education.

As though Iraq's hospitals were not hit badly enough by war and sanctions, medical staff struggling to work amid power cuts and water shortages have also been targetted and terrorised. After heart specialist Dr Basil Abbas Husain was killed by US forces, they claimed by mistake, and a car bomb discovered at Karame hospital; the Ministry of Health announced a campaign to speak about the doctors who were victimised for performing their duty, and exposed to kidnapping or forcing their families to pay ransoms also the hundreds who left the country for good became hundreds.

Deputy Health minister Dr Jaleel Alshammary declared last year that the martyred doctors so far were 30, whereas more than 220 medical doctors had been forced into exile,. in addition to those who were kidnapped. The Ministry of Higher Education announced that more than 2000 university professors had emigrated. This obliged the ministry to close down 125 high degree courses whereas Jordan and Syria became full of the Iraqi doctors looking for jobs. The Syrian government has opened a new hospital composed of Iraqi doctors.

Cases continue, as seen in these press extracts ....
"the Dean of the college of political science in the University of Mosul was saved from assassination. Dr Talal Aljaleely; and his son were saved from an attempt to assassinate them by a group of armed men, who opened fire with light weapons against them, in front of their house, which is located on the university site, as they were about to leave.

'......the murder of Dr Wissam Al Hashimi in Baghdad in August this year. This is another Iraqi scientist killed in Baghdad by the "organised criminal and or organised terrorists". Another number to be add to body count of civilian Iraqis since the "Liberation" which now amounts of more than 1000. Dr Al Hashimi was until his murder the president of the Union of Arab Geologists. He persevered in serving Iraq throughout his career and helped improve the co-operation between Geologists in Arab countries. He organised several (GEOCOME) conference of the Arab Geologists Union under difficult conditions in several Arab capitals, including Cairo, Baghdad, Amman, Beirut, etc. and he was planning another GEOCOME conference in Abu Dhabi in early 2006. Dr Wissam Al Hashimi is an internationally known experts in Carbonates, and he is well known for his important contributions to dolomite and dedolmitisation in and outside Iraq. He was killed while he was preparing his last paper "Porosities Of Carbonate Reservoirs Of The Mesopotamian Basin: An Insight Into Their Origin" to be delivered in the AAPG International Conference and Exhibition in Paris in the Wednesday 14/9/05 morning session.

Dear Mr.Sadooni,
I am Tara Al-Hashimi the daughter of the late Dr. Wissam Al-Hashimi. I'd like to inform you that my father (Dr. AL- Hashimi) has died. He was kidnapped early in the morning on the 24th Aug 2005 while going to work, his recent papers were stolen. A ransom was given but unfortunately he was shot twice in the head and died. May his soul rest in peace. As his ID was taken from him it took us about 2 weeks to find his body in one of Baghdad's hospitals.Lately he was very busy preparing a paper that he was going to talk about it in a meeting in Paris, Unfortunately he will not be able to attend the meeting. On behalf of myself and the family we would like that at least the abstract of his paper remains in the meeting's agenda and to be lectured by someone else.

Regards Tara Al-Hashimi

University Professor in Basrah is kidnapped
Unknown armed group has kidnapped Dr Professor Haithem Ooda, deputy head of chemical engineering department in the University of Al basrah while he was on his way to office on Monday. Eye witnesses said that unknown car has stopped the professor while he was on his way to the office, then three armed men forced him to inter their car and took him to unknown direction. It is mentioned that university professors from Basrah city, southern Iraq, were targets of assassinations, arresting and eliminating by armed groups linked with the incoming parties from outside the borders together with US occupation. University professors are worried from these accidents in the beginning of the new academic year.

Unknown armed men had assassinated the deputy head of the college of education in the Al-Mustansiria University on Wednesday night and his car driver. Major Raed Ali Salih from Baghdad police declared that; unknown armed men had attacked Dr Kadhim Talal Hussain the deputy dean of the college of education in the Al-Mustansiria University; on 6pm tonight, while he was in Alsulaikh district, in the north east of Baghdad, and shot him dead. The source added; that the car driver was shot dead in that attack as well, while the armed men had escaped after committing their crime.

Of course many ordinary Iraqi people have been killed by the occupiers' military actions, as at Falluja, or by bombings which though mostly seeming to be aimed at occupation and "security" forces, frequently kill innocent civilians.
There are also some sectarian attacks, and criminal kidnappings for gain. Under such cover provocateurs are also operating. We have not forgotten, even if the subservient media have, that British soldiers dressed in Arab clothes were caught in Basra with a carload of weapons and explosives.

But what is striking about the campaign against the intellectuals and doctors is the systematic targetting of a specific social layer. In one case a threatened doctor was told "get out you dirty Sunni", but the attacks are across the board and in most cases the perpetrators do no bother to claim responsibility or pretend motives.

If we were to apply the question "cui bono?" , however, who benefits, it would lead us to ask "What interests might be served by having Iraq reduced to a backward country, unable to benefit from its own resources, run its own affairs, or provide its people with a modicum of services?"

Certainly not Iraqi interests, whether seen from a patriotic or democratic perspective.

It has been suggested by some people (e.g.the US "Workers World") that Israel's Mossad could have a killer squad operating in Iraq, which is quite possible, though the scale of the campaign makes this an inadequate explanation. On the other hand the US record, from south-east Asia to Central America (and one top official spoke of a "Salvador option") suggests a more obvious prime suspect.

This does not mean those directing or at least encouraging this campaign would not benefit from having local help, from corrupt criminals and reactionaries within Iraq. We need only think back to the Tsar's "Black Hundreds" which targetted intellectuals and students as well as minorities, or to the mass slaughter of communists in Indonesia after the 1965 CIA-backed coup; and before that Iraq in 1963.

Under international law and the Geneva convention the occupying forces in any country are responsible for the protection of the civilian population. If the US and British governments claim they are no longer "occupting powers" because the Iraqi government is taking responsibility, we can ask how nuch say the Iraqi authorities have had in operational decisions in Falluja or Basra?
That's if anyone, particularly in the US or Britain, still takes seriously what the US and British governments say.

The Bertrand Russel Tribunal has launched a campaign to break the silence about the slaughter of the academics and call for international solidarity with them.
and for online petition:



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