Iraq: Protect Academicians & Students

Defend International is concerned by the cases of assassination of postgraduates, professors and students in Iraq.

Regardless of the circumstances, these attacks  have huge impacts on education, health sectors, media and justice systems, as well as the whole society.


Name: Hundreds of postgraduates, doctors and lecturers   

Authorities: Iraqi government and Multi-National forces

Category: Harassment / Killings / Assassinations / Concern about Iraqi academicians safety

The case:

According to the information received during last year hundreds of named cases of assassination of postgraduates, medical professors and students have been documented. Some of the cases have been reported, many others are not. The reasons vary from fear for their own or their families’ safety and integrity, to institutional or registration failure or poor communications.

Victims of these murderers are from both gender and from all religious beliefs and sectarian affiliation. What all of the victims share in common is that they are highly qualified scientists and committed to pursuing teaching at the universities and colleges.



  • Many professors, doctors, pharmacists, engineers and students have abandoned their universities and started a search for a refuge in Kurdistan region or neighbouring countries like Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Gulf states. After receiving death threats or after being kidnapped or assaulted in other ways they don’t have any other options than fleeing to escape from possible random killings.
  • The Iraq Index, compiled by the Brookings Institution in Washington, released on October 2007, estimated that up to 40 percent of Iraq’s professional class have left the country since 2003 1.
  • Universities are not the only educational institutions that have been attacked. There have also been attacks against girls’ school such as the one in Baghdad that left five students dead and more than 20 injured 2.
  • Studies by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Iraqi Ministry of Education observed that 74% of school children not attending their schools are female.
  • In November 2007 male gynecologists were targeted by Islamic extremists as they were accused of invading the privacy of women 3.


DI Views & Demands:

Scientists and intellectuals are famous for their call for the development of necessary conditions to create a healthy and effective civil society based on the principals of democracy and the rule of law; they share the responsibility for promoting peace and tolerance.

Many human rights organizations in general, Defend International and its member organizations in particular are concerned by these assassinations and its possible impact on ongoing efforts for stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq.

These attacks regardless of the circumstances they do have huge impacts on education, health sectors, media and justice systems, as well as the whole society.


DI Demands the authorities to:

  • Safeguard the future and heal the past by protecting educational institutions, centers and schools, by establishing checkpoints, using advanced electronic systems and providing accommodations in restricted areas near their place of work;
  •  Preserve the sanctity of education institutions;
  • Conduct a thorough and impartial inquiry, at the earliest opportunity, into the cases of assassinations, kidnappings, threats and attacks in order to identify those responsible and bring them to justice. We encourage the government to publish the results;
  • Ensure that individuals are properly protected in the country;
  • Bring peace, tolerance and security in post-war Iraq;
  • Guarantee by legislation the rights of academicians and intellectuals to enjoy their full democratic rights; and to
  • Establish the independence of the education system to prevent political, ideological and religious interference in the education process.


Defend International will continue to monitor the situation in Iraq closely.