Tell Me a Secret: Iraq's Academics

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Iraq's Academics


A little known aspect of the tragedy engulfing Iraq is the systematic liquidation of the country's academics. Even according to conservative estimates, over 250 educators have been assassinated, and many hundreds more have disappeared. With thousands fleeing the country in fear for their lives, not only is Iraq undergoing a major brain drain, the secular middle class — which has refused to be co-opted by the US occupation — is being decimated, with far-reaching consequences for the future of Iraq.

Already on July 14, 2004, veteran correspondent Robert Fisk reported from Iraq that "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."

The wave of assassinations appears non-partisan and non-sectarian, targeting women as well as men, and is countrywide. It is indiscriminate of expertise: professors of geography, history and Arabic literature as well as science are among the dead. Not one individual has been apprehended in connection with these assassinations.

According to the United Nations University, some 84 per cent of Iraq's institutions of higher education have already been burnt, looted or destroyed. Iraq's educational system used to be among the best in the region; one of the country's most important assets was its well-educated people.

This situation is a mirror of the occupation as a whole: a catastrophe of staggering proportions unfolding in a climate of criminal disregard. As an occupying power, and under international humanitarian law, final responsibility for protecting Iraqi citizens, including academics, lies with the United States.

With this petition we want to break the silence.

We appeal to organisations which work to enforce or defend international humanitarian law to put these crimes on the agenda.

We request that an independent international investigation be launched immediately to probe these extrajudicial killings. This investigation should also examine the issue of responsibility to clearly identify who is accountable for this state of affairs. We appeal to the special rapporteur on summary executions at UNHCHR in Geneva.

You can sign this petition by clicking:

This petition was launched by the BRussells Tribunal and is already endorsed by CEOSI (Spain), the Portuguese hearing of the WTI, (Germany), the Swedish Antiwar committee, the IAC (USA), the International Association of Middle East Studies (IAMES), the German Middle East Studies Association (DAVO) and the European Association for Middle Eastern Studies (EURAMES), and several personalities, like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, John Pilger and Michael Parenti.

See also the call for action underneath and more information on

Call for action to save Iraq's Academics

1. We call upon all people, especially academics and students, to help end the silence that surrounds the ongoing crime of the assassination of Iraqi academics and the destruction of Iraqi's educational infrastructure, and support Iraqi academics' right and hope to live in an independent, democratic Iraq, free of foreign occupation and hegemony.

2. We urge that academic institutions and organisations declare solidarity with their Iraqi colleagues.

3. We urge that academics forge links between Iraqi educators, both in exile and in Iraq, and universities worldwide.

4. We urge that student organisations link with Iraqi student organisations.

5. We urge that educators mobilise colleagues and concerned citizens to take up the cause of the salvation of Iraq's intellectual wealth, by organising seminars, teach-ins and forums on the plight of Iraq's academics.

The world's academics and intellectuals must act now to save the lives of their colleagues in Iraq.

[The BRussells Tribunal, in cooperation with other organisations, has started to build a network of contacts and raise public awareness and can provide information and support to individuals and groups who wish to mobilise on this issue. We are able to act as a depository and hub for this campaign]

List of principal endorsers :


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good plan.

1/15/2006 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Signed. Thanks for the heads up Khalid.

1/15/2006 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

waste of time

1/16/2006 12:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it s not a waste of time, "what starts out with a word, ends out with a deed"!

1/16/2006 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's just a shame that so many words turn sour and so many deeds are done in the name of war.

Anyway, the petition is going fantastically. Loads of signatures.

1/18/2006 04:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you and your family move back to Iraq you will be the shining example for everyone to follow!

1/20/2006 01:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where are the ones who are fleeing the country going to? Academics in Algeria were under attack in the same way in the 90s. Anyone who might think for himself is a threat to extremists.

1/20/2006 07:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How the hell is "organizing seminars, teach-ins and forums on the plight of Iraq's academics" going to save one Iraqi academic?

Iraq needs security. We haven't figured out a good way to provide that but I know the solution will not include a bunch of students gathering together in a feel good seminar that does nothing but allow it's participants to feel morally superior.

Security will require people on the ground (preferably Iraqi people) on the ground, in Iraq, to deal with the jackals that are feeding on the Iraqi people.

1/20/2006 08:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How the hell is "organizing seminars, teach-ins and forums on the plight of Iraq's academics" going to save one Iraqi academic?"____Well, it could improve their security by counteracting the campaign to bring US troops home immediately, before the Iraqi forces (police and army) are fully trained and the insurgency defeated. Politics sometimes makes a difference.

1/21/2006 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Don Cox. Your words are very true. I'm Dirk Adriaensens, one of the initiators of this campaign. Many Iraqis asked us to do this campaign, and have written the petition text and the call for action together with us. Our committee has a mixed company of people, and the patriotic Iraqis are the backbone of it ( And it's not the only campaign that the BRussells Tribunal is involved in. We have many campaigns, from demos, conferences, to organising the World Tribunal on Iraq and many other activities. A simple look on our website can reveal this. It's always easy to say that this or that campaign isn't going to change anything, from the comfortable chair one is sitting on before the computer screen. If every blogger, every "progressive" person puts the action where his mouth is, we would have accomplished much more already. With this action we convey a clear message to the Iraqis and the world: you're not alone, we care !!! We have to carry on with our actions until the emperor is standing naked. So instead of criticizing and doing nothing, spread the petition to your friends. Other people may draw attention to the destruction of Iraq's culture, or the division of the population along sectarian lines, or the robbery of the resources etc.. There's a lot of items that need to get known by the broader public. Bush is saying that everything goes so well in Iraq. The corporate media are singing the same song. We have to expose these lies. Iraq needs to regain its sovereignty. And we are helping to accomplish just that. The longer the occupying forces stay, the more insecure and unstable the situation will become.
A good evening to you all, and we hope you will join our campaign(and hopefully many other actions too). If we want a peaceful world, we have no other choice.

1/21/2006 08:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And oh... Dirk Adriaensens again: the sentence: "Thank you, Don Cox. Your words are very true" was meant to be ironic. I realise its meaning could be misunderstood. So I'll put it very clear: "bringing the troops home is a primary condition to restore some order in Iraq."

1/21/2006 09:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This call to organize seminars, teach-ins and forums frames within the objective to break the silence and to awake the international community’s awareness of this ongoing crime. The same can be said of the petition itself, which is only one aspect of the whole campaign. Just imagine what would have happened if the practice of torture and sexual abuse in Iraqi prisons hadn’t been made public.

we don’t know who carries out these crimes against the academics, and if you read the appeal carefully, you’ll notice that we request for an independent, international investigation. I can add that we’ll take every legal and practical step possible to enforce such an investigation and to contribute to it. This campaign was launched on the request of and in cooperation with several Iraqi civilians who care about their country and their people. You don’t need to tell them that they’re desperately in need of security. They have seen their country’s infrastructure and cultural heritage being bombed to rubble. They have witnessed their relatives, friends and neighbours being killed and maimed in the chaos this gruesome war brought to their country. They can testify on the death squads of Iranian militias, the very same militias that are fighting side by side with the occupying forces since the invasion, and that have become part of the Iraqi National guard. Almost three years of occupation didn’t improve the security situation; to the contrary, it’s getting worse day by day. I know, this is not the news that media corporations share with the western public; neither will every single Iraqi agree. But it certainly is the opinion of many Iraqis, whose voices are strangled by today’s oppressors. And all this happens for the sake of control of natural resources, of economic world hegemony, of imperial power.

So, thanks to everyone of you, who signed the petition.

In solidarity,
Inge Van de Merlen
BRussells Tribunal

1/21/2006 11:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Khalid, why does your blog just have men talking on it? Where are all your girlfriends, and why don't you post more?

(Pst, a secret for you: did you know, if you look at the sky with your eyes squeezed up, your brain will turn blue and a bird will fly free on the other side of the world.)

1/22/2006 10:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Confirming everything we already knew... a new report.

"Reconstruction planning before the war was kept very secret, the report says, "to avoid the impression that the US government had already decided on [military] intervention".

May you remain responsible in your debate and loyal in your opposition.

1/25/2006 01:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think more signage and puppets should make quite a difference.

Red Crescent

1/25/2006 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger Marie said...

Iraq needs more security.

1/26/2006 03:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I appreciate theatre for the children as much as anyone, but apart from that I cannot see any merit in any more puppets.

1/27/2006 12:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's great to see that the petition already has over 5000 signatures! But the weak point of the campaign is the lack of online information on the victims, except for a single table which netizens can neither comment on nor correct. Of course, we could hope that an international enquiry would turn up more information, but surely the small (but surely growing?) English-speaking Iraqi online community could help provide documentation. It's hard to believe that there's no information around concerning assassinated university professors, but google shows up very little.

There's a wikipedia article here:
List of killed, threatened or kidnapped Iraqi academics which started from the BRussels Tribunal list but has been corrected and updated by wikipedia editors (meaning anyone speaking English with internet access and willing to correct errors or add more information) and some individual articles such as Dr. Imad Matti Sarsam

Please anyone in Iraq who knows any of these academics and can correct the information, just click on Edit of the section containing the name of the professor you know, make the corrections, click on preview, and when you're happy, click on Save. (You may first register at the top right: this is recommended and easy, but optional.)

If you think the professor or lecturer was "notable" (important enough for an encyclopedia article), then edit the entry, e.g. for Dr Smith, John Ahmed to something like [[John Ahmed Smith|Dr Smith, John Ahmed]], click on preview, then save, and then click on the red link John Ahmed Smith to start the article - write the article, click on preview, and then save.

Please add external links (external to the wikipedia) to online sources e.g. in the section ==External links== at the bottom of the page like * [ blog by Ahmed Smith, Jan 1, 2001] or give some other verifiable way of referencing non-online sources. (Referencing in the table itself is also possible.)

Online Iraqis should collectively have a lot of information which can make this case much stronger. Please collect together this information and update this list:

2/03/2006 08:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Marie: Iraq needs more security? USA needs more security as well, even with 50% of our brothers and sisters rotting away in overcrowded prisons. Maybe when 90% of our citizens are locked away in jail, we will have security finally? Or is "security" a code word for MOAB bombs?

2/06/2006 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Hi Khalid
One month now without blogging,
are you okay ?

2/13/2006 10:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Khalid is alive and well, and has gone back to uni and so is very busy. =) He said he's been trying to write a post for awhile, but keeps on running out of time, so at least we know he isn't forgotten about blogger!

So I guess if you read the you know! =)

2/14/2006 09:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The list on the website of the BRussells Tribunal is permanently updated. The petition is only one part of the whole campaign. We’re working on the case and we welcome any additional information.

Check it out on

Inge Van de Merlen
BRussells Tribunal

2/15/2006 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger said...

Hi Khalid! How are you? Please tell Majid and your mother and father hello from me!

I am in New England talking about Iraq and everyone here is so interested to hear the things you and others told me.

Also I wanted you to know about this article I wrote with Isam Rashid, about the difficulties for professors in Iraq:

ok, now make sure you email me back and tell me you are safe!

3/06/2006 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best Free Library

9/19/2006 08:28:00 PM  
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