Women Fleeing College under Islamist Threats

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 17, 2004 | Go to article overview

Women Fleeing College under Islamist Threats


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BAGHDAD - Islamist extremists are targeting the city's universities by threatening and even attacking female students who wear Western-style fashions, setting off bombs on campuses and demanding that classes be segregated by sex.

At least 1,000 of an estimated 3,000 women who want to postpone their studies for fear of violence will be granted leaves of absence, a student affairs official here said.

Guards at al-Kindi University in Baghdad last week arrested a man carrying nearly 10 pounds of TNT in a bag.

"The terrorist admitted that he belongs to an Islamic group," university security chief Sameer al-Sumaidai said. "When we asked him about the one who sent him, he replied, 'It is God who sends me.'"

Pamphlets found on campus declared: "If the boy students don't separate from the girl students, we will explode the college. Any girl student who does not wear a veil, we will burn her face with chemicals."

At Mustansiriya University, a bomb exploded earlier this month in the college of sciences, injuring two students, one seriously.

The explosion occurred shortly after pamphlets also appeared on that campus demanding that men and women students be separated and that women abandon Western clothing and cover their heads when in public.

Two days later, student Rana Fuad was abducted as she was leaving the campus. Within an hour, the young woman, still dressed in blue jeans, was found unconscious at the college gate.

Miss Fuad stopped going to classes and refuses to talk to the press.

"Rana is in bad psychological condition," friend Sheatheh Ahmed said. "She was kidnapped by three masked men who told her they would burn her face with chemicals if she puts on such clothes again, and that this was her last chance."

The campaign of intimidation already is leading to an exodus of students from campuses.

"According to the reports of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, 3,000 women students want to postpone their studies for this academic year because of the lack of security and the threats," said Ali Abdul Zahra, the official in charge of student affairs in Baghdad. …

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