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Last Updated: Friday, 5 January 2007, 10:17 GMT
Iraq's academics targeted by militias
Hundreds of academics, doctors and other specialists have been murdered in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Many more are among the thousands of people fleeing the country, adding to the brain drain.

BBC Arabic.com asked four Iraqi academics, all based outside Iraq, why they thought they were being targeted, and what could be done to help.

Muhammad al-Rubai, adviser to the Iraqi president on scientific affairs and professor at British and Irish universities

Dr Mohamed al-Rubai

These assassinations have hit nearly every academic discipline and every university in Iraq - except perhaps those in Kurdistan.

The abduction and murder of Iraqi academics has become a common event. It is disrupting university life and forcing Iraqi talent to flee the country.

Those behind the attacks can be from all sides. They include people from the former regime who have lost their position and influence. They also include people who seek to "cleanse" universities of those who collaborated with the former regime.

They include sectarian forces who want to get rid of academics who don't belong to the majority sect of the area.

Some political and religious groups want universities to reflect their own version of Islam.

It's extremely important to spread the principles of freedom, justice and democracy inside universities

They interfere with the daily activities of faculties and impose certain practices which are irrelevant to academic life.

To help address the situation, we urge foreign countries and international organisations to lend material and moral support to Iraqi scholars.

It's extremely important to spread the principles of freedom, justice and democracy inside universities, irrespective of sectarian or ethnic affiliation.

Samir Kalander, radiology specialist, currently in Jordan

I don't exaggerate when I say that since the invasion of Iraq there has been a concerted effort to wipe out the country's academics.

I believe those behind it wish to destroy life and civilization in Iraq.

I feel I have lost my stability forever

There are many foreign forces seeking to do this. Add to this the lack of state authority and the growing influence of militias, who are unhindered by any religious, ethical or legal values.

Why does the Iraqi government not see the importance of protecting academic independence?

Why does it leave its scholars at the mercy of political parties and extremists, instead of taking its proper responsibility in promoting science, culture and education?

Specialists in different disciplines in Iraq are now powerless. Those who remain in the country are likely to be killed or abducted.

When I left Iraq, I left my job as head of section in a specialist university hospital. I also left my patients and my private business.

I had to start from scratch. Though I have a job now, I feel I have lost my stability forever.

Ismail Jalili, professor and consultant of ophthalmology, based in the UK

Dr Ismail Jalili

What is happening to Iraqi academia amounts to the destruction of our country's human resources.

It's part of a plan to weaken this country and to finish it off as a strategic power in the region.

A strong, rich and advanced Iraq would not be welcome.

Therefore, international and regional powers are seeking to weaken it.

The policy of targeting Iraqi brains and talent is just another manifestation of this plot.

The United Nations, the Arab League and other international and humanitarian organisations need to get involved to stop this brain drain.

Abbas al-Husseini, Westminster University in London and general secretary of UK's Iraqi Higher Education Committee

Dr Abbas al-Husseini

Iraqi academics and scholars are being targeted in a plot to destroy Iraq. It's part of an attempt to disrupt reconstruction and to halt political progress.

Academics are being killed by groups with links to the former regime - in collaboration with armed foreign and Iraqi men.

This crisis can be addressed by supporting the political process and by spreading democracy in political and social life.

All political and sectarian activity should be stopped inside universities in Iraq.

Security around universities and the roads leading to them should be tightened.

Transport used by university teaching staff should be well guarded. Accommodation should be provided for them on campus or nearby.

The Iraqi Higher Education Committee in the UK organised a day of solidarity with Iraqi academics recently. A number of Iraqi scholars in Britain and Ireland took part.

We handed a plea for help to the head of UNESCO.

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