Thursday, March 09, 2006

Academics become casualties of Iraq War

March 09, 2006

BAGHDAD - Gunmen have killed some 182 Iraqi university professors and academics since the U.S. invasion in early 2003 and a group representing Iraqi academia said on Thursday the killings constituted a war crime.

Another 85 senior academics have been kidnapped or survived assassination attempts, according to the Association of University Lecturers in Iraq.

The attacks have led to an exodus of Iraqi academics who are vital to educating and rebuilding the war-damaged country.

"What is going on in Iraq against these professors is a real war crime," said Dr Isam Kadhem Al-Rawi, head of the association and Professor in Earth Sciences at the University of Baghdad.

In the chaos of Baghdad, it was not always easy to establish whether the killings were politically or criminally motivated.

Rawi said the campaign against Iraq's leading intellectuals was being orchestrated by parties inside and outside the country and motivated by perceived allegiance of an individual to one particular religious or secular party.

Addressing a news conference at the association's headquarters in western Baghdad, Rawi appealed to all groups to protect the country's academics.

In recent incidents Ali Hussein al-Khafaj, dean of the college of engineering at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad was kidnapped as he left for work on Tuesday.

Gunmen shot dead prominent Iraqi academic and political analyst Abdul Razak al-Na'as in his car in January as he left his office at Baghdad University's College of Information, in the center of the capital.

In several kidnap cases, families have paid ransoms only to receive the bodies of the victims, Rawi said.

Rawi said if the situation did not improve university lecturers would strike or organize other traditional protests such as sit-ins.


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