SOS over Iraqi scientists
Monday 10 April 2006, 15:41 Makka Time, 12:41 GMT Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, an alarming number of the country's leading academics have been killed. A human rights organisation puts the number at about a thousand and has a documented list of 105 cases. These professors, it says, were not random casualties - they were assassinated.
documented case is that of Muhamad al-Rawi, the president of
incidents continued after al-Rawi's
shooting. Dr Majid Ali was assassinated in 2005,
shot four times in the back. He had a PhD in physics and was one of the best
nuclear energy experts in
The Paris-based Arab Committee for Human Rights (ACHR), an international NGO which has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN, has issued an international appeal for help to protect Iraqi academics.
Jazeera.net spoke to ACHR's president, Dr Violette Daguerre, a human rights activist and psychology
Has ACHR taken action to prevent the assassination of Iraqi scholars?
Daguerre: We are actually moving
within a well-organised network of firms involved in defending freedom and
academics. The network is big and includes organisations in North America,
I also think it is important to classify the assassinated scholars
according to their specialisations so that their trade unions and
syndicates can move accordingly. I would also like to stress here that
journalists should put in more effort in this regard, as this crucial issue is
not getting the proper attention in media.
Al-Azawi: Urgent contacts have been made with Iraqi and international organisations. We work closely with Iraqi trade unions that represent Iraqi professors.
We also met the Qatari ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and we are discussing with them how can we protect Iraqi academics.
Since our campaign has found support among academic organisations in different parts of the world, a suggestion has been made that each interested university would host three Iraqi university professors for one year as visiting lecturers to keep them away from dangers in their own country.
The general perception is that scholars targeted are those who specialise in the sciences and who were, or might be, of use to weapons of mass destruction programmes. In your view, what is the explanation behind the assassination of scholars working in fields such as Arab literature and history?
Daguerre: I think the target is
intellectuals in general, regardless of their field of specialisation - they
are all important to their country's renaissance.
I would like to notify you of another dangerous phenomenon growing in
Al-Azawi: High-calibre academics in general are regarded as the backbone for the development in any country.
Do you think the assassinations are politically motivated?
Daguerre: Assassinating chosen scholars
would hit Iraqis' spirit and consequently deepen the rift among Iraqi
factions, which is what
The assassination policy has been adopted by all ideological groups, who have convinced assassins that if what they do does not serve the country, it definitely serves their faction or group, which is not necessarily national.
The Lebanese civil war is a good example that assassins might
be fellow countrymen of the victim but they are working within a network
of foreign interests and implementing a plan put before the war.
Al-Azawi: Our information indicates that some assassinations are of a sectarian or political nature.
What is your evidence that the assassination campaign is directed by foreign parties?
Daguerre: Nationalists cannot work for the destruction of their own country, and the evidence is logic. Foreign parties do not reveal their agenda; as long as there is a party from inside the targeted country willing to do the dirty job, why would a foreign party involve itself in public?
What about sectarian motives?
Daguerre: It is obvious that there is
a plan to provoke sectarian violence in this country. I think sectarian
violence is one of the key elements of a plot aimed at destroying
Sectarian tension and violence grow along with fear. When fear controls you, you tend to get terrified of others who are different from you. Fear would prevent you from analysing that difference, how important it is, How big it is. You just delude yourself with the notion that the other person is different - so he is the enemy.
When the culture of fear rules, the distance among different religious, political or sectarian groups becomes huge, and people tend to isolate themselves from the bigger society. They become attached to their closest bond which might be the sect, the tribe, or the political party.
Have you made contact with academics inside
Daguerre: The co-ordination is going on with the Iraqi committee for protecting Iraqi university professors, which has recently issued an SOS calling the international community to protect Iraqi scientists and scholars.
What we are trying to do in the Arab Commission for Human Rights is to be the bridge between Arab countries and the rest of the world.
Who do you think will benefit from targeting Iraqi scientists?
Daguerre: The same parties that have
been working for years to make this country fall to pieces, and prevent it from
retaining its original key role in the area. Maybe it was
It was not comfortable for some that this country was investing its own wealth in its own way; they decided to deny Iraqis this legitimate right.
Based on our correspondents and meeting with dozens of Iraqi academics, all of
them were convinced that they were targeted by "parties interested in
Scenarios circulated among Iraqis point the finger at
the US-led forces in
Daguerre: Examples prove that the
involvement of those parties is a lot, especially the Israelis, as all
those parties have interest in tearing
Maybe both of them [
But we have many cases of Iraqi professors kidnapped and were not released before they made clear commitment to leave
What is the impact of the "assassination
Daguerre: Definitely the negative
impact is huge, because that terror campaign is pushing many scientists and
scholars to leave their country [
This is a major blow to the process of conveying knowledge to the coming generations, which will need such quality people to plant the culture of civil and modern society and brush aside the culture of sectarianism, violence and hate.
I would like here to cite a statement made by the Iraqi minister of higher
education in which he said: Nearly 160 Iraqi university professors have been killed, and
nearly 2,000 have fled the country, which led to the closure of 152
post-graduate departments in
How is the Iraqi government dealing with the assassination of scientists and scholars? Are there criminal investigations? Any results?
Daguerre: Let me answer this by
raising a counter question; Do the current rulers of
I believe that as long as the violence and extremism continues in
I would like to seize this opportunity to urge the world's
biggest organisation for academics' rights, the National Academy of
Sciences (NAS) in
Two of ACHR staff got NAS's award for human
rights - Haytham Manna
and Moncef Marzouki
- and just as the
Al-Azawi: All the cases were dropped for the lack of evidence.
Aljazeera Monday 10 April 2006