Iraqi students on road trip to Niagara Falls

[Editor’s Note: Below is information about an organization devoted to helping Iraqi students. Details are at http://iraqistudentproject.org/]

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.

What Americans Can Do

Colleges and universities in the United States are sought out by teachers and students from all over the world. The Iraqi Student Project (ISP) invites these institutions to accept qualified students who have lived most of their lives in Iraq, giving these students tuition waivers for undergraduate study. We work with community leadership (in churches, mosques and other local organizations) to provide the support that these students will need during their college years. ISP is working in the Middle East to find, without favoritism of any kind, qualified students who would not otherwise be able to attend university- those who still have residence in Iraq and those who have sought refuge elsewhere. We then recommend such students for study and see them through the processes of university admission and applications for student visa to the United States. The ISP support groups serve as communities of friends for each student throughout their years of study in the US.