History and Background

Iraq: A Cradle of Civilization in Ruins

Iraq's people were among the first to learn irrigation, to invent the system of writing sounds that is key to our own alphabet, to create a legal system that is the foundation of modern law. During the early Islamic centuries Iraq was a center where ancient learning was translated and preserved, where poetry and music and medicine flourished. In modern times Iraqis have built a thriving system of higher education and have sent thousands of students to study all over the world, returning to teach and work in Iraq. Western institutions of higher learning benefit from the contributions to scholarship and human development that have taken place across the centuries in Iraq.

But now Iraq's educational system is in ruins. On May 18, 2007, The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a major story on Iraq 's universities under this headline: "Iraq 's Universities Near Collapse: Hundreds of professors and students have been killed or kidnapped, hundreds more have fled, and those who remain face daily threats of violence." Students in Iraq are without teachers, without books and computers, without university structures. And years are going by. Those who have taken refuge in Syria and Jordan (estimated at more than 2.2 million Iraqis by summer of 2007) are often unable to avail themselves of higher education in those countries and only a few succeed in being resettled elsewhere.