Sectarianism Takes Root in Iraq Academic Life

"Are you a Sunni or a Shiite?" has become a basic question Iraqi students ask each other nowadays, a further sign of simmering sectarian in a war-torn country seen by many as sliding towards a devastating civil war.

Sectarianism Takes Root in Iraq Academic Life

"My son Wisam has been shunned along with other Sunni students by the majority Shiite students in his school in [the predominantly Shiite southern city of] Basra," Alaa Al-Basri told on Tuesday, March 14.

"When he tries to make friends with classmates, they first ask him whether he is a Sunni or a Shiite.

"Why never experienced such sectarianism before the US-led occupation," fumed the father.

Iraq has been ravaged by Sectarian violence since the bombing of a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra, north of Baghdad, on February 22.

In the following days, more than 450 civilians, mostly Sunnis, were killed and 81 Sunni mosques targeted, including eight completely destroyed, in reprisal attacks.

At least 46 people, mostly Shiites, were killed and hundreds wounded in car bombings in the Shiite Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City on Sunday, March 12.

"Racist Teachers"

The sectarian tone among some teachers has further raised fears of instilling sectarianism in younger generations.

"Some Shiite teachers are making fun of Sunni students and don't treat all students on an equal footing," another Sunni parent, who requested anonymity, said.

"Students with known Sunni names like Omar, Abu Bakr and Aisah are usually harassed," he added.

The US Christian Science Monitor said in a report last week that a Sunni student was told by his teacher that "Sunnis are terrorists."

What added insult to injury is that the Iraqi government called off the teaching of the patriotic education subject, says IOL's correspondent.

Moved by an increasingly sectarian society, the ministry of education has decided to mark the National Unity Day on March 8 of every year.

"Sectarian Campuses"

Sectarianism has further cast a pall on campuses.

"Deans and university officials usually turn a blind eye to sectarian rallies and banners raised by students, and allow students to hold religious ceremonies on campuses, which entrench sectarianism," Ahmed Al-Hamawi, a member of the self-styled League of Youths and Students, told IOL.

"After the Samarra bombing, a group of Shiite students in Baghdad University raised banners saying that Shiite imams Ali-Al-Hadi and Al-Hassan Al-Askari [whose mausoleums were worst hit in the bombing] were in the hearts not in the in [predominantly Sunni city of] Samarra," he added.

Hamawi said the sectarian banners sparked clashes between Shiite and Sunni students on campus.

"Tensions are growing high during religious [Shiite] festivals like Ashoura," he said.

Last week, Hamawi added, a group of students supporting the ruling Shiite United Iraqi Alliance staged a strike on the campus of Al-Mustansariya University under the watchful eye of the provost.

"They raised banners calling for a government only formed by the party which scored big in the elections, in reference to the UIA," he said.

The Shiite coalition has won 128 seats of the 275-seat legislature in the December elections.

Shiite Fears

Shiite students, additionally, fear to enroll at universities in predominantly Sunni cities and provinces like Al-Anbar, west of Baghdad.

Some of them told IOL that they moved to the Shiite south, fearing harassment or assault from their Sunni peers.

According to Minister of Education Abdel Falah Al-Sudani, more than 417 schools have been subject to terrorist attacks in western provinces, chiefly Al-Anbar and Diali.

He said in statements carried by Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the attacks claimed the lives of 64 students and injured 57, with Al-Anbar taking the brunt of the attacks with 34 students killed.

Sudani said 310 teachers and school staff were killed and up to 160 others injured in terrorist attacks nationwide from October to February 28.

More than 181 university professors and academics have been killed in violence since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Another 85 senior academics have been kidnapped or suffered attempts on their lives, according to the Association of University Lecturers in Iraq.



Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16