شرّ البلية ما لا يضحك
"To the Editor:
"A Message From Iraq to Its Exiled Scholars: Please Consider Returning Home" (The Chronicle, September 29) highlighted the plea of the Iraqi minister of higher education, Abed Thiab al-Ajili, for help from the Institute of International Education's Scholar Rescue Fund. What caught my eye was his request for funds for TV cameras at the gates of the university to prevent assassinations. Then he spoke about the improvement in the security situation in Iraq, which he thinks should encourage Iraqi academics to go back home. As a professor who served Baghdad University for over 31 years—and lived in Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war, the inhuman sanctions, and the occupation for six years—I would like to make the following comments:
• I do not know how much it would cost to put TV cameras at the gates of the university. (Nobody knows what university the minister meant, because there are four state universities in Baghdad alone.) What I surely know is that a decision was taken before the beginning of this current academic year to install TV cameras in all the classrooms of Baghdad University, cameras linked to two TV's—one in the dean's office and the second in his assistant's room. That was a decision unprecedented in Iraq or in any university in the world. Does the minister know about this decision? And if his ministry or the universities under his direction have money to spend on this system of police-state-style censoring, how come they don't have money to install cameras at the gates of universities? And since when can cameras prevent the killing of academics?
An Exiled Professor's Questions for Iraq's Higher-Education Minister, Ocotber 10, 2010
Fellow, London School of Economics and Political Science, London