The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com Sunday, November 09, 2003 Food... I updated the "Is Something Burning?!" page and have added it to my sidebar --> [http://iraqrecipes.blogspot.com/] - posted by river @ 5:27 AM Galub Memdeshen... These last few days have been a bit tiring- a few visitors (relatives) and a couple of friends who we haven’t seen since July. It’s ridiculous- we live in the same city but it feels like we’re all worlds apart. Everyone is so consumed with their own set of trials and tribulations these days- the son that lost a job, the daughter that lost a husband… the problems feel endless and everyone has their own story to tell. As my mother constantly says, “Kul wahid yihtajleh galub memdeshen”, or “every person [you listen to] requires an brand new heart”. This is usually said when anticipating a sad, frustrating story. Every story begins with a deep *sigh* and ends with an “Allah kareem”. Our latest visitor has left us more than perturbed. A friend of E. passed by, a junior in the electrical engineering department at Baghdad University. He sat, for an hour, describing an incident that occurred last week at the university which we had heard about, but didn’t know the details. It has been the biggest problem yet in Baghdad University. Just some information on Baghdad University: Baghdad University was established in the ‘30s, I think. It is Iraq’s oldest, contemporary university and its most famous. It started out small and kept on expanding until it became one of the largest universities in the region. There are 6 different campuses spread all over Baghdad and I’m not sure just how many colleges there are. The main campus is the one located in the leafy, elegant area of Jadriya, in the center of Baghdad. The colleges of engineering, science, political science, physical education, and women’s education are all located on the Jadriya campus, as is the university president’s office. The Jadriya campus was designed in 1961 by Walter Adolph Gropius, a German who emigrated to America in 1937. The campus is huge, and beautiful. The buildings are sprawling and punctuated with little gardens planted with palms and other trees and grass. There are also several dormitories that provide living quarters for out-of-town students, and in the physical education college, there are football fields, basketball courts and a pool. My favorite feature on the Jadriya campus is the arc framing the entrance. The arcs, which look like a pale, elongated rainbow that doesn’t quite meet in the middle, symbolize Arabic architecture. The opening in the middle of the arcs symbolizes open minds, allowing for the entrance of knowledge. Or that’s what they say it symbolizes. The whole campus is a wonderful contrast of green trees, and beige buildings swarming with busy students. Even during difficult times, it was an oasis. Up until the early 1990s, the majority of the teaching staff had gotten their post-graduate degrees from abroad. The College of Medicine leaned towards an English curriculum because most of the doctors were graduates of British medical schools, the College of Engineering leaned towards an American curriculum because the majority of the professors and teachers were graduates of American colleges. The College of Science was a combination of American/British-taught teachers and professors, and most of the syllabuses were in English. After 1991, the university began deteriorating, like all other universities. Chemicals weren’t purchased for the science labs because many of the basic experimental materials were ‘banned’ according to the sanctions resolution. The physics labs suffered the same fate. Engineering departments complained of a lack of equipment and books. Because curriculums were American or British, the books also originated from these countries. Major publishing houses refused to sell books to Iraqi universities because their governments considered it illegal (apparently, you can make WMD using a calculus book…). We had to wait until someone brought a copy of the necessary book in, by chance, and make dozens of photocopies of it, which would be sold in little ‘makatib’ or bookshops all over Baghdad. Many of the professors started emigrating after 1991 because the economic situation was so bad, they could barely afford to support themselves, let alone their families. They started leaving to places like Jordan, Yemen, Libya, Syria and the Emirates, hoping to find a decent position in a university or research center. The ones who remained were highly appreciated… we still talk of the mathematician from MIT, or the programmer from Berkeley. In spite of all this, Baghdad University remained one of the best universities in the region. It was well-known throughout the Arab world and its graduates were welcome almost anywhere. It’s reputation, more or less, remained in tact. About 90% of the college applicants always put Baghdad University at the top of their application form. It accepts the highest grades because, as a total, it accepts only around 10,000 students a year and every year, 75,000 students graduate from Iraqi high schools and apply for college. So, in addition to some of the best teachers in Iraq, they also get the smartest students. The University was looted heavily during the days immediately after April 9. Some campuses were worse off than others. The Jadriya campus was looted, the first few days, but because American troops were posted nearby, the looting was lighter than in other places. Many professors quit working after the occupation, while others were fired. The ones remaining in the university got together and had a ‘democratic’ vote, choosing specific staff to head the departments, colleges and they even chose a university president. The problem was that many of the professors were former Ba’athists… some of the best teachers were Ba’athists (we had over 6 million). Sami Mudhafar, who was chosen as university president, was respected, competent and… anti-Ba’athist. A few weeks into the occupation, Chalabi started insisting on the implementation of his ‘de-Ba’athification plan. The first place it began in was the universities. Any Ba’athists, with administrative positions, were asked to step down and hand over the reigns. The next step the CPA insisted upon, was that any Ba’athists professors should be made to quit. That was too much. Sami Mudhafar realized that making all the ex-Ba’athist teachers and employees quit would mean that he’d have too big a shortage of academicians to continue classes. Things were already tough before the war, this would make things impossible. So, he refused. He told the representative for the Ministry of Higher Education that it was a mistake and he couldn’t be responsible for the result of an action like that… Sami Mudhafar was promptly changed. He was asked to resign his post and the Minister of Higher Education, appointed by the Governing Council, chose someone else to fill his post. The Jadriya campus was in an uproar. Students and teachers protested, holding signs that said things like, “The Minister of Higher Education was appointed- Sami was elected.” And it was a good point: one of the first buds of democracy was promptly squelched by a minister appointed by the CPA and the Puppet Council. The problems started after that. It seemed like every day brought a new story of some minor dissent or some major disagreement between the staff, the students and the new administration- and sometimes, even the American troops at the university got involved. Before the troops pulled out of the Jadriya campus, they assigned ‘campus security’, which some say were trained by the soldiers. The campus security are a bunch of men between the ages of 20 and 40 (the majority, they say, are in their twenties). Students have been annoyed because the campus security seem to be there not so much to ensure safety, but to watch the students. Almost every day, there has been a new skirmish with the campus security, and any time someone tried to take the matter to higher authorities, they had to go through even more security to make an official complaint. A few days ago, one of the students got into an argument with one of the security members over a parking space. The student apparently pulled in to a ‘reserved’ parking spot and was rushing off to class when one of the security members asked him to remove his car. The computer engineering student argued, the campus security guy yelled, angry words were spoken, another security guard joined in- and suddenly the three were fighting. Friends of the student joined in the scuffle, and the security people suddenly pulled out knives… more students joined in- everyone was enraged- and the security people asked for back up. The back up came in the form of several security guys in two pick-up truck. They pulled up to the road leading to the department of computer and electrical engineering, pulled out their Klashnikovs and opened fire on the department building! Students began dropping to the ground, windows were broken, chunks of beige plaster were dropping from the balconies and teachers rushed to herd students out of classes and into the corridors (to avoid windows). One of the students got into his car, and went to get the dean of the college and some Iraqi Police. A few minutes later, the police pulled up yelled and yelled at the security people to stop shooting. The security people then turned and began shooting in the direction of the police. The police pulled out their guns and began firing threatening shots to get the campus security to stop. The dean came along- a small, earnest man, pale and bewildered, wondering what the problem was and was instantly greeted by terrified students, angry security guards and the IP. The students went home that day, enraged and disoriented, unable to continue classes. Luckily, injuries were minor. A few scrapes from the knives, a few bruises, and some mental scars, probably, but nothing else. Since that day, they have been on a strike- demanding an official apology from the campus security and a limit to their power, i.e. they shouldn’t get to fire at a bunch of students over a parking space… Today (well, yesterday, technically- it’s almost dawn here) there were some more explosions in the city center… not sure where it’s coming from but someone said it was near the Green Zone again. Nothing on the internet about it. But, other than irate security guards, explosions in the capital, bombing in Tikrit, strikes in Nassriya over the security situation, a few assassinations, some abductions, car bombs, frightened humanitarian organizations, and exhausted people- everything is just rosy… *sigh*… Allah Kareem. - posted by river @ 5:06 AM __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Protect your identity with Yahoo! Mail AddressGuard http://antispam.yahoo.com/whatsnewfree _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk