‘stray cliques brought in by the occupation’ are assassinating Iraq’s scientists and intellectuals, Dr KhUdayir al-Murshidi, professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Baghdad University alleged last week.
The topic of discussion in a 50 minute programme on Dubai’s Al-Arabiya Television on 30 June was the targeted killing of Iraqi scientists and academics.
Guests of the programme were Dr Abd Dhiyab al-Ajili, Iraqi minister of higher education and scientific research, via satellite from Baghdad; Dr KhUdayir al-Murshidi, professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Baghdad University and deputy dean of Iraqi physicians, via satellite from Damascus; and Dr Muhammad Ali Jawad, former director of the International Studies Centre and professor at Baghdad University, in the Dubai studio.
The presenter began by stating that ‘initial estimates say more than 280 academics have been killed in Iraq in unknown circumstances’.
He added that ‘hundreds are reported missing and thousands of physicians, university professors, engineers, and other outstanding people left Iraq with their families because of fear, letters of threat, atmosphere of terror, and indifference by the social and political institution.’
This was followed by a three-minute report over video by Hadir al-Rubay’i in Baghdad on the assassination of Iraqi scientists, university professors, physicians, and engineers, showing people burying their dead, empty classrooms, and security forces patrolling streets.
Asked about the assassination phenomenon and the ones responsible for kidnapping or killing prominent academics in Iraq, Al-Ajili said: ‘The assassinations are actually a painful issue which worries most academics at the Iraqi universities and it largely worries the Higher Education.
‘The Iraqis certainly do not benefit from these assassinations. We believe foreign quarters are perhaps behind these assassinations because they are organised and carried out in a special way. Also the perpetrators often escape from justice.’
Asked who would want to kill academics and why, the minister said those killed belong to all sectors of the society and assassinations are not confined to one faction.
He added that the aim is ‘exhausting the country’s human resources.’ Responding to another question on the quarters behind these assassinations and asked if academics are killed for sectarian reasons, the minister said: ‘In accordance with the statistics available to me, there are no indications that these are sectarian killings because they include all factions of the Iraqi society without exception.
‘Therefore, I cannot specify who. We have now established an operations room to determine who is behind this phenomenon.
‘We have experts and we have started to take practical steps to define this phenomenon. We set up committees to determine who is behind this serious phenomenon, which is targeting the country’s resources.’
Dr KhUdayir al-Murshidi said: ‘A large number of Iraq’s professors, physicians, scientists, and thinkers are regrettably targeted by stray cliques brought in by the occupation.’
He then said he salutes ‘every honourable and nationalist Iraqi person who stands in the face of occupation and the agents of occupation.’
He added: ‘Killing an Iraqi teacher, scientist, or physician is a gross crime and a large loss for the country, but this takes place within the framework of the big crime of occupying Iraq.’
He added: ‘The people of Iraq are all targeted with assassination now.’
Continuing, he said one of the reasons for the war on Iraq is the presence of the ones who are targeted now. He then said: ‘Iraq had a large and solid educational institution under a regime which ruled in a largely national manner for 35 years.
‘That educational institution was targeted with destruction and that was one of the aims of occupation so that Iraq would be open to a group of thieves and murderers.
‘It would thus be a country with no scientific qualifications or role to play in the region or in serving its nation.
‘Accordingly, liquidations are part of a well-studied US-Zionist scheme. Regrettably some militias and intelligence services of countries in the region are taking part in this scheme.’
He added: ‘One may become the target of assassination and liquidation merely for adopting a national position against occupation.’
Next to speak was Dr Muhammad Ali Jawad, who said: ‘When the US-led coalition forces entered Iraq, they did not topple a political regime but a state as noted in their dissolution of the Iraqi army, their destruction of the Iraqi museums and cultural heritage represented by libraries, and the burning of ministries.
‘All these were carried out step by step. The last stage, which has started now, is the stage of liquidating the scientific cadres, which are the infrastructure needed to build Iraq scientifically.’
Asked if he really believes the US-led coalition forces want to destroy Iraq’s human capabilities, the higher education minister said: ‘None can deny that occupation is the cause of the problems happening in Iraq.
‘What do you expect from occupation in any occupied country? Will occupation build the country?’
On whether the coalition forces take part in the liquidations taking place in Iraq, Al-Ajili said: ‘Regardless of whether the occupation forces are taking part or not – I do not have information about the ones who do this – I am sure there is an organised plan aimed at turning Iraq into a backward country and exhausting its scientific wealth and resources. This is definite because there is no other reason.’
On his ministry’s plans to protect scientific resources, the minister said: ‘Assassinations are not restricted to teachers; students are also assassinated.
‘This means it is an organised process. The Iraqi individual is threatened with assassination anywhere in Iraq. We believe that there is a systematic assassination of university students and teachers.
‘Therefore, we set up committees and these began to contact all religious authorities. We want these authorities to issue a fatwa (Islamic ruling) prohibiting the spilling of Iraqi blood, which is a wealth that should be preserved, and disavowing any group that is involved in these liquidations.
‘We cannot deny that these liquidations are carried out with Iraqi hands.’ He added that the government will provide transportation to professors in guarded vehicles and reinforce security at universities.
The moderator then asked Dr Al-Murshidi about the way physicians and academics are threatened. He began by saying his colleague and friend Dr Muhammad al-Rawi, dean of Iraqi doctors and head of Baghdad University, was killed in his clinic.
He added: ‘A doctor cannot today sit in his clinic and receive and examine patients. This is in addition to kidnapping people, including the sons of physicians, scientists, and professors, and threatening and blackmailing them to pay or get killed.
‘Letters of threat are also sent to the physicians’ homes. The minister said the vehicles transporting professors will be guarded. How can they be guarded at home or in the street or living area?
‘Targeting professors, qualified people, physicians, and thinkers is part of the attempt to assassinate the entire Iraqi people as I said at first.
‘You and the whole world can now see what is happening in the so-called new Iraq.
‘The issue is not one of how to protect physicians, engineers, professors, and scientists. Let the government protect itself first.
‘Can anyone in the government appear in a Baghdad street for 15 minutes?’
Continuing, he said the Iraqi scientists and academics can be protected by ‘the evacuation of the US forces and the agents and spies of the Americans and agent militias, which sow corruption on earth and kill people on the basis of their identity.’
He then said protection measures will be useless ‘as long as the occupation forces, militias, spies, Mosad, and intelligence services of neighbouring countries are present in Iraq.’
Asked about the letter of threat he received, Dr Muhammad Ali Jawad says he received a letter by mail saying ‘you will be liquidated if you do not leave’ the country.
He added: ‘Not liquidating me directly was some sort of respect for me. The others were liquidated directly.’ He then said he immediately left Iraq for the UAE with his family and is currently working there.
Turning to the issue of national reconciliation and dialogue with the Iraqi ‘resistance’, the moderator asked Al-Ajili if this will lead to an end to the assassination of scientists and academics and to peace and security in Iraq.
Responding, the minister said: ‘If national reconciliation takes place, there will certainly be some sort of order and calm. If things calm down, there will certainly be an acceptance of the other side. This will reflect on the situation on the ground.
‘We said there are outside quarters but these use the people present in the country. We hope national reconciliation will lead to some sort of stability if reached.
‘If stability prevails in the country as a whole, there will be close watch of universities and the street will have a national sense of security. This may uncover the perpetrators of criminal acts.’
He then said 130 physicians, engineers, scientists, and workers in humanitarian, agricultural, and veterinary fields, in addition to administrators, have been assassinated in Iraq. He added that thousands of Iraqi professors left Iraq for security reasons.
Asked when he will return home from Syria and whether he thinks national reconciliation and dialogue with the resistance are enough to persuade him to return home, Dr Al-Murshidi said: ‘In fact, Syria is a genuine Arab country which shelters all Arab citizens without discrimination or exemption.
‘This Syrian position has been known throughout history.’
Responding to the second part of the question, he said: ‘The so-called reconciliation initiated by the so-called prime minister carries the seeds of its failure because setting conditions and saying the one who attacks the Americans or others will not be included in the reconciliation process means that there will be no peace with large factions that are resisting occupation.
‘In my opinion, the ideal solution to the situation in Iraq lies in undertaking all forms of resistance.’
He said this begins with political and media work in support of the resistance and ends with the use of the gun ‘to expel occupation and its agents’.
Continuing, he said: ‘Iraq has no other path than that of resistance to expel occupation and its agents and foil this abominable Zionist scheme.’
Asked if he is convinced that the Mosad is involved in killing the Iraqi professors or if this is only part of the Arab conspiracy theory, Al-Murshidi denied it is a conspiracy theory, saying: ‘The Mosad’s interference in northern and southern Iraq is known and some of the Iraqis who now call themselves politicians visited Israel and coordinated with it and called for normalisation with it.’