Aching from seeing the reports from Blacksburg, Virginia, I tried momentarily to imagine being part of the community. Such unspeakable sadness, I could hardly fathom. Grief blanketed our nation last week. My husband Ken and I saw flags flying at half-mast from the Mississippi Delta all the way to Abilene, Texas over the weekend. Each wind blown emblem spoke of the heartache and horror of Virginia Tech.
How appropriate, how fitting, to mourn as a nation.
I couldn’t help thinking at the same time I have yet to hear even one conversation about the horrific events experienced by the university community in Iraq this winter and spring.
I remember hearing an NPR report one day in which an Iraqi leader said the university system is in near collapse due to the violence.
Enter, a good friend here in Memphis, my favorite Egyptologist, Lionel Jacob Shock. While enjoying coffee last night with Jacob and his beautiful wife, Lola, we commiserated on the sad situation in Iraq. Jacob sent the report below to me today.
Keep in mind how sickened and saddened we, a country of over 300 million have been by this gross attack on innocent college students.
Now, imagine the pain experienced in Iraq, population around 27 million.
One of my students said the other day in reference to the suffering of the citizens in Iraq, “Well, what did they expect since they attacked us? It’s war you know.”
Maybe we need to mourn a bit for the universities in Iraq.
from UN's Human Right's Report for Iraq, January-March 2007
Education sector and the targeting of academic professionals
20. Conditions in the education sector continued to deteriorate due to threats to lecturers and students, deadly attacks on educational institutions, and the individual targeting of teaching professionals. … Officials of the Ministryof Higher Education told UNAMI that 200 academics have been killed ... The apparently sectarian-motivated assassinations, kidnappings and threats to academics and teachers continued at an alarming level throughout the three months. UNAMI recorded at least seven assassinations of academic professionals, and a number of attacks on or in the vicinity of academic institutions, causing substantial casualties among the student population … Violence continued to severely undermine the right of Iraqi children and youths to adequate education and intellectual development.
22. In one incident … 150 staff and visitors, including post-graduate students … were seized en masse by unknown gunmen and taken to an undisclosed location … the fate of an estimated fifty-six [of these] Ministry of Higher Education employees, all allegedly Sunni Muslims, remained unknown. … some of those abducted and subsequently released alleged that the operation was carried out with the knowledge of personnel manning at least one Ministry of Interior check point.
23. Two attacks on al-Mustansiriya University in January and February … The first attack on 16 January involved two coordinated car bombs detonated in the vicinity of the main building of the University. Over 70 people, mostly students, were reportedly killed and some 140 others wounded in the attack. The second, a large-scale suicide attack targeting the University’s College of Economics and Administration on 25 February, killed 41 students.
26. Other academics and teachers did not escape their assassins … an Iraqi professor at Mosul University’s Faculty of Law, was shot dead by unknown gunmen on his way home at the al-Kafa’at quarter on 11 January … deputy head of the Association of Salahuddin Scholars … was gunned down at his home in Samarra’ on 13 January … a professor at Baghdad University, was shot dead in Baghdad’s al-Amiriyya district on 17 January… a professor at al-Mustansiriya University’s Faculty of Economy and Administration, was gunned down in the al-A’dhamiya district of Baghdad on 23 January … acting dean of al-Nahrain University’s Law College
survived an assassination attempt.
27. …three professors from al-Nahrain … were abducted … A law student … was also abducted in the same incident, … Several hours later, their bodies were brought to the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad by police from al-Shu’la police station. … Several days later, the dean of al-Nahrain University’s Law Faculty resigned in protest at the Iraqi authorities’ failure to provide adequate protection to university professors.