8% of Iraqi academics have Fled, 1000 Professionals Assassinated in past Year
Ahmad Janabi reports that
‘ More than 1000 leading Iraqi professionals and intellectuals have been assassinated since last April, among them such prominent figures as Dr Muhammad al-Rawi, the president of Baghdad University. The identity of the assailants remains a mystery and none have been caught. ‘
Political scientist Dhafir Salman is quoted as saying that although many Iraqi intellectuals fled the country during the sanctions regime in the 1990s, ‘ under the occupation the rate of emigration has increased. “Iraqi universities have lost 1315 scientists who hold MA and PhD degrees,” al-Ani said. “This number constitutes eight per cent of the 15,500 Iraqi academics. “Up until now, 30% of those who were sacked as result of the [de-baathification] campaign have left Iraq.” ‘
In my view, a lot of the assassinations have been carried out by individuals with Baath-era grudges or by radical Shiite militiamen. But some of them could just be personal grudge-settling. (I saw this phenomenon–of personal grudge-settling, not with regard to academic–in Beirut during the Civil War. When there is social chaos, neighbors with rifles who don’t like another neighbor sometimes just take a pot shot at him through his kitchen window. It is a little unlikely that the shooter will be caught when there are few effective police and bigger fish to fry).
There has been a struggle during the past year over de-Baathification. Party membership was forced on a lot of capable people. Ahmad Chalabi wants to do massive de-baathification, which means even minor party members would be blackballed. This is apparently what is happening in the universities. Others have suggested only banning or conducting reprisals against the people who committed crimes or held fairly high party or military posts. My impression is that the latter policy was followed in post-war Germany, and that the Nazi high school teachers just went on teaching. Likewise professors like Martin Heidegger were not locked up or killed, even though Heidegger fired his Jewish colleagues and was certainly a fellow traveler of the Nazi regime.
There is a contrast to be made here in revolutionary situations. In 1949 when the Chinese Communists came to power, they actively tried to keep entrepreneurs and professionals in the country, and made special arrangements to allow that. In contrast, in 1979 when Khomeini carried out the clerical revolution in Iran, the hardliners chased most of the really talented professionals out of the country. Iran suffered horribly as a result.
So, the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Interim Governing Council can do things the Chinese way, or the Khomeini way. It looks as though Chalabi is taking them in the Khomeini direction. It can’t be good for the future of Iraq to lose nearly 10% of its academics. Some of those may have been involved in Baath Party dirty tricks, but were all? And, the campaign of assassination makes a mockery of the rhetoric about democratization.