Being A Student in Iraq: 2016 vs 2017 – What Has Changed?
In June 2014, Iraq faced the biggest setback in its education system. After the attack of ISIS, the education system was in jeopardy, particularly when ISIS took control over the city of Mosul. ISIS attacked one of the most renowned educational and research centres in the Middle East, turning the University of Mosul into one of their bases. The laboratories of the universities were turned into factories for manufacturing chemical weapons. Students of law, political science, arts, business administration suddenly realised that they were not part of university anymore as ISIS forbids these subjects to be taught in University.
Furthermore, ISIS also influenced the syllabus of courses with their teachings. They placed their supporters in influential positions of universities and introduced stricter routine for university students. In 2016, students were still made to follow strict uniform codes. They were traumatised and forced to see the faith of the people who did not accept the laws of ISIS. A professor was subjected to thirty lashes for the crime of sitting with female teachers to check final exams. Students consider themselves to be hostage situation as they weren’t allowed to leave the university premises and the only way to escape was to bribe ISIS soldiers. Most of the students fled the university had to take admission to other universities in Iraq or have to take classes in makeshift campuses established in the Aland Motel in Dohuk.
Strict uniform codes were not only imposed by ISIS, but Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research showed his support towards conservative uniform instead of focusing on updating the research facilities of universities even though most of them have been a victim of looting. Many universities have lost their equipment and have insufficient resources to facilitate postgraduate students. Furthermore, they are unable to buy new equipment as they don’t have a budget and lack of international banking system in Iraq. The University of Mosul has to lose 500,000 books when ISIS set the library alight.
In 2017, Iraqi students have stood up for their rights and our participating actively in political activities. They were successful in getting the right of being part of distance learning through their protests. Students from Al-Qadisiya University demanded that Prime Minister Abadi in Kut should be thrown out of the office. They are protesting against the government decision to stop providing scholarships to Iraqi students studying abroad.
Iraqi students have become the main force which will bring country’s education to the right path. After Iraqi forces victory in Mosul, students are participating in the clearing of rubble and taking part in bringing the university back to its original state. Even though they are not allowed to enter laboratories by authorities (as they might be dangerous) they are still struggling to start the university in September successfully. A young activist, Ghassan Al Shalach, has launched a campaign of collecting books for universities which it has lost with its library.
Students from Iraq had faced many challenges. Violence has been part of their life for more than a decade, but they are still fighting and struggling to get an education. They have accepted every challenge and took it head-on. They haven’t given up on their mission even through the many unfortunate situations they have faced.