Iraq: Higher Education and Academic Freedom in Danger
The Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) express continuing concern about the dangers facing academic life in Iraq today.
Virtually every Iraqi institution of higher education is at risk. Universities, colleges and research institutions operate under severe political duress and without adequate resources, transparent funding mechanisms, or the civil and legal protections needed to nurture and promote a vibrant intellectual climate and civil society.
Iraq’s intellectual and academic community, long oppressed by the highly restrictive and paranoid policies of Saddam Hussein’s government, have been unable to recover in the pervasive atmosphere of lawlessness and political violence that has followed the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of the country. All campuses and scientific institutions suffered heavily from the months of looting that followed the collapse of the former régime.
The present Government of Iraq has done little to ensure the safety of academics since it took office. A significant portion of the current violence against academics has been perpetrated by sectarian militias affiliated with the ruling political coalitions. Professors have been threatened, harmed, kidnapped and assassinated because of their actual or alleged political affiliations, or because they failed to respond positively to demands of students for special treatment. Communities of students are becoming politicized in a way that threatens the institutionalization of tolerance and the protection of intellectual diversity.
Moreover, the continuing generalized insecurity in the country has forced thousands of Iraq’s best educated academics, doctors and professionals to flee, taking with them the intellectual capital for building a stable, democratic and free nation.
With this statement we register our profound alarm at this state of affairs. With it we also pledge our collective determination to take steps, together and with sister organizations, to promote programs and policies in Iraq and on behalf of the international community of scholars and researchers that will positively address this disturbing situation.
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