Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Getting to Know: Dr. Taher Khalaf Jabur Al-Bakaa

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Getting to Know: Dr. Taher Khalaf Jabur Al-Bakaa

Article excerpt

It's fair to say that Dr. Taher Khalaf Jabur Al-Bakaa's experience in academia has been unlike most scholars. In the mid-1990s, when he was chair of the history department of Baghdad's Al-Mustansiriya University, the second-largest university in Iraq, it was not unusual for scholars to disappear if they criticized the regime of Saddam Hussein.

After the war in Iraq started in 2003, the United States appointed Al-Bakaa president of Al-Mustansiriya, a position that required six full-time bodyguards. A year later, he was named minister of higher education for the new government, putting him in charge of Iraq's centralized university system. It was in this post that he survived an assassination attempt.

Al-Bakaa is one of more than 1,000 Iraqi professors who have fled that country since U.S. troops invaded. While most scholars go to neighboring Arab-speaking nations such as Jordan, the U.S.-based Scholars at Risk Network has had 100 requests from Iraqis to come to America. Al-Bakaa recently immigrated to the United States with his young son and is now a visiting scholar at Harvard University.

Some estimate that more than 200 professors have been killed during the war. Some were scientists killed for purportedly working on weapons of mass destruction. Others were killed in sectarian violence, while others have been murdered for criticizing the United States, the Sunnis, the Shias or Iraq's current government.

Like many Iraqi professors, Al-Bakaa welcomed Hussein's demise and had high hopes for the United States' efforts in his native country. …

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