CAUT has added its voice in calling for support of Iraqi academics facing escalating and horrific dangers at universities throughout the besieged nation.
“The situation of our colleagues at Iraqi post-secondary educational institutions is almost beyond description,” said CAUT executive director James Turk. “Unfortunately, while we are trying to draw attention to their plight, there’s little we can actually do.”
Iraq’s universities are nearing collapse and hundreds of professors and students have been killed, kidnapped, or tortured since the U.S.-led invasion of Baghdad in 2003. A joint study in 2007 by the Iraqi Ministry of Education and UNICEF found that at least 208 academics have been killed since the start of the war and that professionals are fleeing the country in such numbers that most universities are facing severe staff shortages.
The situation is only worsening as sectarian violence mushrooms in the wake of the country’s takeover. Iraqi refugees from all walks of life are pouring into Jordan and Syria, and Canada has faced condemnation from a number of sources, including Amnesty International Canada, about its lack of commitment to accept increasing numbers of refugees.
Turk admits his frustration that so little of substance can be achieved at this point in the conflict, despite the CAUT executive’s desire to help.
Still, he says CAUT has called on the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada to urge its member institutions to make special efforts to create opportunities for refugee Iraqi academics.