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Dying education in the “blossoming” Iraqi democracy

By Dirk Adriaensens, member of the BRussells Tribunal Executive Committee

While Anglo Saxon universities are boasting of their so-called “glorious role” in the reconstruction of Iraqi academia (See f.i. U of A helping create an education revolution in Iraq)1, Iraq’s education is dying. From August 1990 onwards, UN sanctions excluded Iraqi education from international scientific developments and banned import of essential educational material such as books and even….. pencils. Many Iraqi professors and scientists left the country during that period.

Then came the 2003 invasion….

First the US/UK invaders and their Iraqi stooges transported mobs of looters in 2003 to the educational institutions to destroy scientific education research centers, confiscate all papers and documents to stop any Iraqi scientific renaissance before it had a chance to begin2.

Second they burnt, looted or destroyed 84% of Iraq's higher education institutions.3 John Agresto, in charge of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in 2003-2004, initially believed that the looting of Iraq’s universities was a positive act in that it would allow such institutions to begin again with a clean slate, with the newest equipment as well as a brand new curriculum.4 John Agresto knew next to nothing about Iraq's educational system. Even after he was proposed and selected by Donald Rumsfeldt, he did not pore through a reading list. "I wanted to come here with as open a mind as I could have," he said. "I'd much rather learn firsthand than have it filtered to me by an author." He did a Google search on the Internet. The result? "Not much," he said. This ignorant man, neocon republican, was assigned as the CPA's senior adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education.5 Currently he works full-time with the (private) American University of Iraq – Sulaimani as its Interim Provost and Chancellor. He is also a member of the University's Board of Trustees and Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, in the company of Kanan Makiya, a "close friend" of Ahmed Chalabi, and an influential proponent of the 2003 Iraq War6.

Third they sacked, threatened, kidnapped, drove into exile and assassinated Iraq’s best and brightest educators. This destructive process is ongoing. On 26 January 2011, Iraqi security forces arrested more than 100 intellectuals from the Province of Diyala of which Baaquba is the capital. Among those arrested are four top medical professors teaching at the Diyala University’s Medical College, professors Mazen Razzouqi, Adel al-Hussaini, Ali al-Husaini and Bahaa Abed. It is not clear why Iraqi security forces arrested the intellectuals at a time the Diyala University suffers from severe faculty shortages.7

Fourth they attacked educational institutions to intimidate, frighten, kidnap, arrest and kill students. As a consequence school attendance decreased dramatically. And apparently school attendance is still considered too high by the Iraqi government as the army now prevents students from going to school. On 3 February a source in the Directorate of Education in Abu Ghraib told news agencies that the Muthanna Brigade of the Iraqi army prevented students of the Isra school for boys and from the Ascension High School for Girls in Haswa area of the district of Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, from going to school to perform their mid-term exams. He also noted that “the army used force to prevent teachers and also the observers from the exams to reach their schools and ordered them to return to their homes." The source added that "the army struck terror into the hearts of students and citizens alike, amid the apparent absence of human rights and law."

Fifth they changed the history books. Contemporary Iraq history is taught in sixth, ninth and 12th grades. Now, in all three text books history suddenly comes to an end after the 1958 revolution. Fifty years are being erased from Iraq’s memory. "History is always affected by politics – and the winner gets his version into the text books”, said Ms Nadia, an Iraqi history teacher. What’s more, even the old glorious past of Iraq is being erased from the collective memory. “Seventh graders studied ancient civilizations, focusing on Mesopotamia. It was a rich study that caught the imagination of the pupils and inspired them. Now the focus on Mesopotamia is very little – Hamurabi is just another king who wrote the law on an obelisk – and greater focus is given to neighbouring civilizations".8 The Iraqi history books no longer mention the occupation of Palestine.
Sixth they appointed academics, loyal to the US occupation authorities and the Iraqi Quisling government. These appointments were made on a sectarian basis. Some even with falsified curricula and purchased fake diplomas. Corruption in higher education is rampant.

Seventh the Iraqi government shows no desire to rebuild Iraqi education, neither the destroyed infrastructure, nor the quality of education. Instead, the Iraqi government has committed to fully fund $1 billion a year to a program that will send over 50.000 students abroad over the next 5 years, selected on sectarian grounds.9 The students are studying in the U.S. and London10 and pay for tuition and fees, as well as room and board, meaning that Iraq is sponsoring US and UK universities. All this while only few funds are allocated to reconstruct the educational sector inside Iraq: schools, universities and research.

Some “revolution” in education! Quite an achievement!

Nouri al-Maliki has asked the diaspora elite and academics in exile to return to Iraq to help rebuild the country. But the BRussells Tribunal warned on 26 April 2009 already that “those academics who return are finding jobs few and the welcome far from warm”11. The statement further alarmed the academics who are invited or forced to return, to be aware of criminal acts like kidnappings or assassinations.12

Iraq’s Universities now the worst in the Arab World.

The results of these policies are disastrous. Iraq’s universities, once the showcase of the Arab region, are now probably the worst in the Arab region, Asia and the world. The Ranking Web of World Universities is published twice a year (January and July), covering more than 20,000 Higher Education Institutions worldwide.13

On the Arab level only 3 Iraqi universities are in the top 100 of Arab universities in the latest ranking of January 2011:

The University of Kufa ranks 77th, the University of Technology ranks 86th and the University of Sulaymaniyah ranks 91th.14

On the global level only 8 Iraqi universities figure in the top 12.000:

Kufa University
University of Technology Iraq *
University of Sulaimani
University of Dohuk
University of Mustansiriyah
Foundation of Technical Education
University of Mosul
Kurdistan University
College of Medicine Basrah University
University of Basrah
American University of Iraq Sulaimani

The show-piece of Iraq: Baghdad University, doesn’t even figure in the top 12.000.

That’s the fantastic revolution in education, predicted by some unworldly Western academics and mala fide US politicians.

The facts on the ground in Iraq show that there is no “revolution” whatsoever in Iraq’s education system, no reconstruction worthy of the name. There is only destruction, corruption and decline.

How can there possible be progress when sectarian militia’s still roam the campuses, when there’s no serious investigation into the assassinations of Iraqi academics, when attacks on educational institutions are assigned to “insurgents” while it is well known that the destruction of the Iraqi education system is part of the plan to culturally and ethnically cleanse Iraq, to “end the state” as Paul Wolfowitz declared in 2003.

25th of February: Iraqi youth declare “Day of Rage for Change and Freedom in Iraq”
Following the example of their Tunesian and Egyptian fellow Arabs, Iraqi youth declare the 25th Feb a day of rage and they call for demonstrations in Baghdad. Their slogans:

* Enough with our silence, our patience has ran out.
* We are like camels, we eat weeds and transport gold
* Our annual income from oil is $100 billion, yet we cannot find bread to eat.
* Death to democracy that takes us from bad to worse
* Death to democracy that does not recognise impeccable qualifications
* Death to democracy that has made people strangers in their own homeland
* Death to democracy that looks the other way while the ministers steal and embezzle billions and facilitate their escaping justice (reference to the minister for electricity, commerce..etc.)
* Death to democracy that robs the bank in daylight (reference to the robbing of the bank of Rafidain in Zuwiya)
* Death to democracy that has promised transparency but created foggy atmosphere.
* Death to democracy that has turned into a religion of worshiping positions of power
* Death to the democracy of assassinations with silenced guns
* Death to the democracy that assassinated our best academics and scientists and is replacing them with ignorant people who can hardly read and write.
* Death to the democracy of death and beheading
* Death to the democracy of poverty, backwardness and murder
* Death to the democracy that arrests the murderers, then set them free and claims they escaped!
* Death to the democracy that assassinated the opposition writers and those who stand by the truth
* Death to the democracy of the ethnic and sectarian quotas
* Death to the democracy that brought us a cancer of separation walls in our beloved Baghdad.

As you can read, some of these slogans are related to the dreadful state of Iraq’s Higher Education and the killings of academics. Others are directed against the poor quality of public services. Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, home to more than six million people, hardly gets one hour of non-interrupted electricity supplies every 24 hours.15 Iraq has run out of money to pay for widows' benefits, farm crops and other programs for the poor, the parliament leader told lawmakers who have collected nearly $180,000 so far this year in one of the world's most oil-rich nations.16

Every day there are demonstrations and protests in many Iraqi towns, not covered by the mainstream press. Police shot randomly at hundreds of protesters in al-Hamza district in Iraq’s southern province of al-Diwaniya on the 4th of February, killing one person and injuring four.
The incident came after a statement released on 3 February by the Iraqi parliament condemning the use of violence against demonstrators in Egypt and urged for the respect of human rights.
The protesters who followed up with their demands from a previous demonstration on Thursday called for the removal of al-Hamza head official and for the Iraqi government to provide basic services.
In addition to demanding employment, the protesters carried lamps and small sacks of sugar to symbolize their demands for food and electricity.17

Richard Falk’s comments on the International Seminar: “Defending Education in Times of War and Occupation”.

“The shocking portrait of what occupation has meant for academicians and students is depicted by the Ghent Charter that has been endorsed by prominent educators in Europe and elsewhere, including the Rector of the University of Ghent. The BRussells Tribunal has played a leading part in exposing these realities afflicting Iraqi universities, and has organized a seminar to take place in Ghent, Belgium, March 9-11, 2011, with the title “Defending education in times of war and occupation.”

“It is important that all of us, especially those paying taxes in the United States to pay for this occupation, understand that our silence is complicity. Especially those of us associated with teaching and research in American universities bear an additional responsibility to exhibit even now our solidarity with those who have suffered and are suffering in Iraqi academic communities. We know that many faculty members have been murdered since 2003 (over 500 confirmed cases), particularly those who spoke out and acted against the occupation, and many more have fled the country permanently. The departure of university personnel is part of a wider exodus of middle class Iraqis, estimates are over two million, leaving the country deprived of the sort of national social fabric essential to avoid predatory forms of foreign economic exploitation of the country.”

“We who devote our lives to higher education realize the importance of educated and dedicated young people for the wellbeing of a country. If Iraq’s future is to be restored to some semblance of decency, its institutions of higher learning will need to become safe and hospitable for students and faculty.”18

In the meantime, read the Ghent Charter in Defense of Iraqi Academia and weep!19

Objectives of the Ghent international seminar on Iraqi academics

While the mainstream media continues to ignore or conceal information vital to any reasoned understanding of why the United States and its allies attacked Iraq, occupied it, and continue to occupy it, the urgent task of the proposed seminar is not only to give reasons for the destruction of Iraqi academia, but also to propose ways of saving it, highlighting the duty of international organisations to respond, and the moral responsibility of non-Iraqi educators to stand in solidarity with their Iraqi counterparts.

Thus in Ghent, in cooperation with other Belgian universities and international organisations, the aim is to alert the international academic community to the ongoing nature of the crimes against Iraqi academics and to propose and explore practical remedies.

The introductory content of the seminar would cover a number of elements:

·     Introduction to the results of “state-ending”: the killing of academics and destruction of Iraqi academia as exemplary of a strategy of cultural and political destruction;
·     Testimony on the killing of Iraqi academics and the destruction of the educational system in Iraq and its current status under occupation and a client government;
·     Special attention to the situation of the forcibly displaced: the challenges faced by Iraqi refugees in securing their rights to education, financing their education, and the right to work for displaced Iraqi academics;
·     An assessment of the practical challenges to education in Iraq today, spanning facilities and the loss of persons, as well as the general deterioration of social culture and public safety amid the collapse of the state and the reign of violent militias and associated leaders.
·     An analysis of the extent of discrimination, corruption and oppression in Iraqi universities and the educational system and how these might be stopped.
The objectives — and main content — of the seminar would be:
·     To provide the international academic community, wider public and relevant institutions with an opportunity to hear the truth about the destruction of Iraq, and the plight of Iraqi academia and academics in particular;
·     To provide, within the framework of an accurate, non-partisan understanding of the destruction of Iraqi academia and the killing of academics, an opportunity for those who stand in solidarity with Iraqi academics and promote education in general to propose and discuss practical means of helping Iraqis recover their rights to education, and defending Iraqi academics;
·     To provide, in particular, a forum for educational leaders — whether deans, professors, department heads or administrators — to establish a practical network of opportunities for displaced Iraqi academics, thus helping to save what remains of Iraqi academia outside Iraq;
·     To formulate, alongside the practical initiatives discussed or adopted, the insistence that politicians, governments, civil servants and associated institutions, at national and international levels, take immediate steps to uphold international law, the rights of education embraced by the United Nations, and to stop the ruthless repression and killing of Iraqi academics.

The main objective of the seminar should be to make a solid step towards relieving the suffering of the Iraqi people. They are the ultimate targets of the destruction of Iraqi academia.

One of the best means of bringing closer an end to their suffering is to participate in efforts to propose, map, plan and outline the steps necessary for rehabilitating Iraq’s educational system. Saving Iraqi academics is a keystone in stemming any further destruction of Iraq and its people, and to rebuilding what remains.

Only Iraqis can rebuild Iraq, and for Iraq to be sovereign these Iraqis should be skilled, capable and independent, so the destruction wrought can be repaired. Iraq’s educators are vital to Iraq’s future.

The time is long past for speeches and assurances from those in positions of power. Practical action must be demanded, of those in power and from ourselves.
More information and possibilities to register:


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There are also some additional articles people will find copies of at I just checked the seminar page and there's a link for related papers and articles, showing five articles, including the above one. The other four might be all there is and might be sufficient even if there are more, but if there are more, then check through the home page and maybe the "Salvador Option and Death Squads" index linked in the home page. There's a related PDF linked in the home page and it's for, "Ghent Charter in Defense of Iraqi Academia (Richard Falk 04 Jan 2011)", which doesn't appear to be included in the links for papers and articles page for the seminar, f.e.

Further down the home page is a link for "Iraqi academics murdered under US occupation". It's for a set of lists. The first list is for killed Iraqi academics, 451 of them, and the second list is for "threatened and kidnapped Iraqi academics", 79 of them. And there's a third list at the bottom of the page. It's for "More Casualties in the Iraqi Education Sector". Those people are 120.

And that's besides the many who left the country because of this war.

12, Abdul Aziz El-Atrachi:

Prof. Dr. , Ph.D. in Plant Protection at College of Agriculture and Forestry, Mosul University. He was killed by American soldier in front of his students. The American authority said to his family “Sorry, it was a loose bullet!” (my emphasis).

83, Mohammed Munim al-Izmerly:

Prof. Dr. , PhD. in Chemistry; An Iraqi chemistry professor tortured and killed by the American Interrogation team, dies in American custody from a sudden hit to the back of his head caused by blunt trauma. He was hit from behind, with a bar or a pistol. His battered corpse turned up at Baghdad's morgue and the cause of death was recorded as "brainstem compression". It was discovered that US doctors had made a 20cm incision in his skull.

108, Dr. Samer Saleem Abbas:

Radiologist/Specialist and chair of Radiology Department at Specialized surgery hospital (Al-Jerahat). Assassinated in cold blood in his clinic by a gunman with silencer gun. 5-6 bullets, one in his mouth.

Blackwater USA brought (illegally) silencers to Iraq, it was reported.

Amal Maamlaji (#132), Adel Jabar Abid Mustafa (#133), Majeed Hussein Ali (#138), Bassem al-Mudares (#151), Mahfoudh al-Qazzaz (#165), Hassan Abd - Ali Dawood AL-Rubai (#167) and others were clearly [assassinated]. There are others who were killed, but the descriptions for them either don't mention how the deaths occurred or state that they were shot, but without it being clear, in the brief descriptions anyway, that assassination was really intended. For the latter deaths, perhaps some occurred just because of the war and unfortunately being in locations where there was gunfire or fighting.

The index for papers and articles for the seminar provides a link for a page for "Iraq: The Age of Darkness" by Dirk Adriaensens and that seminar page provides a PDF download for the piece, as well as the ability to read online, but not all in one page. The following are full single-page copies.

The last part of the above copies is for the topic of "A dark summer for Iraqi academics" and the author briefly describes the killings of around seven Iraqi academics only last summer.

The seminar article or paper entitled, "The Missing Persons of Iraq" and which is also by the same author is provided in only PDF and Powerpoint formats for the seminar, but the following page posted last November provides "an adaptation of a presentation Dirk Adriaensens will give at the 6th International Conference Against Disappearances in London 9-12 December". The title used in the seminar page is "The Missing Persons of Iraq", while the title used for the following adaptation and for a PDF that I found when Googling use a slightly different title, "Enforced Disappearance: The Missing Persons of Iraq".

I didn't read the whole of that article yet, but read several of the last parts of it and it's clearly important. I was going to excerpt some of it, but everything I read is important and needs to be read, and I don't want to excerpt that much text. It's a very strong and fact-based condemnation of Washington, as well as the UK, for this war and all related crimes the US, as main occupying power in Iraq, is responsible for.

There's a paragraph in which he interestingly quoted from I guess some Iraqi about the so-called sectarian violence in Iraq. It illustrates a view I've had for a long time and which is that it isn't real sectarian violence and the US, as occupying and, therefore, dominant power is responsible. About the only Iraqis who'd be responsible, so guilty, would be those who were employed in the "security", police and army of the US puppet regime in Iraq. The "Salvador Option and Death Squads" index has enough articles about this, but like the above one adds, the UK is also responsible and it's possible that Israel also is. They were killings that had an or some appearance of sectarian violence, which some westerners also often called civil war, but this isn't what was really going on.

That part of the article is under the subheading of, "Dirty war as a key strategy to subdue the Iraqi people".

The total number of "disappeared" Iraqis between 2003 and 2010 looks like they'd be around half a million, btw. And this "is treated with secrecy by the occupying forces and Iraqi authorities. The figures given by the USA and the Iraqi government are downplayed and totally unreliable".

I'll excerpt some of the "Dirty war" part.

The killing orgy in Iraq is part of the US "dirty war" strategy described by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker on 15 December 2003: "An American adviser said: 'The only way we can win is to go unconventional. We’re going to have to play their game. Guerrilla versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism. We've got to scare the Iraqis into submission.' (… )'The proposed operation - called 'preemptive manhunting' by one Pentagon adviser - has the potential to turn into another (Vietnam) Phoenix Program' (…) We do need a more unconventional response, but it’s going to be messy.'"[30]Messy…. Indeed. And not reported in the Western mainstream press.

Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, wrote in October of 2006: "The evidence that the US directly contributed to the creation of the current civil war in Iraq by its own secretive security strategy is compelling. Historically of course this is nothing new — divide and rule is a strategy for colonial powers that has stood the test of time. Indeed, it was used in the previous British occupation of Iraq around 85 years ago."[31]

"When a US-backed, US-financed 'Shia' organization murders a Sunni, it isn't Shia killing Sunni; it isn't sectarian violence, it is the US killing Sunni. When a US-backed, US-trained 'Sunni' militia murders a Shia, it isn't Sunni killing Shia; it isn't sectarian violence, it is the US killing Shia. ...," writes Jonathan Azaziah.[32] There is truth in this assertion. The USA/UK organized "preemptive manhunting" and used Israel and Iraqi proxy forces to brutalize, imprison, torture and kill millions. Millions more were expelled from their homes, internally displaced and driven into exile. The US, UK and Israel are not the only ones who carry out this policy of ethnic cleansing. There is also proof of Iranian involvement and cooperation with the occupying forces in death squad activities in Iraq.Ban on releasing morgue data.

Iraq says it has no central database to try to link the unidentified bodies that have been buried anonymously in the past few years with a list of names of the missing. There is also no record of victims of sectarian violence who have been buried informally in unmarked plots. Does Iraq really have no central database for the unidentified bodies? Or is the corrupt Iraqi Quisling government unwilling to give the real figures because they're up to their neck involved in the so-called "sectarian killings?"

On September 7, 2006, The Washington Post reported that the issue of civilian casualties had been politically charged since the start of the Iraq war. Soon after the invasion, U.S. and Iraqi officials forbade Baghdad's medical officials to release morgue counts.[33]

IPS was refused access to the central Baghdad morgue, and was told journalists are forbidden to report on the conditions inside, wrote Brian Conley and Isam Rashid on June 7, 2006. ...

On October 6, 2006, Global Security stated: .... ...

What he cited from Global Security includes numbers of Iraqi deaths in Sept., August and July 2006 as reported by Interior Ministry of the puppet US regime in Iraq. The Baghdad morgue, however, reported much higher numbers. The total for the three months while using the ministry's numbers was 2,923, while the total according to the morgue was 4,725. And that doesn't tell us what the real total was, for as he later cites from a report by Dahr Jamail who interviewied a cemetary caretaker, many bodies of killed Iraqis never got counted by the morgue or the ministry. Very many bodies were buried as quickly as possible and the article says that there are many large cemetaries containing these officially uncounted Iraqis. If recalling correctly, then I believe it was either Dahr Jamail or Robert Fisk who wrote an article years ago saying that a field that had been used for soccer was transformed into a cemetary and it was full of graves.

"We don't do body counts", Washington or some US military commander said. It's true, yet also false. They don't do accurate body counts is what he really meant to say, for they definitely and clearly see to ensuring gross undercounting.

I guess that's "just" part of how the US conducts unconventional war; un- or anti-convention(s).

The article begins by briefly describing related international law.

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