Many academics fled Iraq during Saddam’s reign, reports the Christian Science Monitor. When a professor disappeared, colleagues didn’t know if he’d escaped or been arrested by the secret police.
Eventually, a letter with no return address would arrive, typically with news that the professor was teaching in Jordan or England. They would sometimes offer to send computers, journals, and even money. Word spread quickly. “We would all want to know: What new way did they invent to escape?” recalls Dr. Talib Rahmatallah.
The universities became tools of the regime.
Many PhD candidates were Hussein’s relatives from the villages of Tikrit and Baath Party loyalists. They rarely showed up except on exam day. They damaged the culture of education that Iraq had been so proud of, and terrorized professors.
“Some students would put guns on their desk to take the test,” says Dr. Hafudh Alwan, assistant dean of the political science department at Baghdad University.
“Once, one was cheating and when I told him to stop, he said, ‘Leave me alone or I will take this pen and draw on your face.’ ” He paused, overcome by emotion at the memory.
Some of the professors are now returning to Iraq, reports the Monitor.