Iraqi science faces lonely road to recovery

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Thu May 29 11:51:02 MDT 2003

Nature 423, 468 (2003); doi:10.1038/423468a

Iraqi science faces lonely road to recovery

Iraq's beleaguered universities took their first tentative steps
towards revival last week by electing interim leaders. But so far the
institutions have received precious few offers of outside help in
repairing the destruction they suffered at the hands of looters.

Rebuilding Iraq's science, technology and academic base, already
weakened by years of economic sanctions, will be a huge task. Looters
ransacked and burned parts of Baghdad and Basra universities,
stripping them of everything from computers and pipettes to chairs and
doors. Similar events occurred at other Baghdad institutions,
including Iraq's National Library, which housed more than 500,000
books, and the Al-Awqaf library, home to some 6,000 Islamic

With sanctions against Iraq now lifted, and oil revenue available to
pay for reconstruction, these institutions could, in theory, be
rebuilt. But officials such as Sami al-Mudhaffar, the biochemist
elected last week as acting president of Baghdad University, do not
seem to have received any substantial offer of help.

An official at the US Department of Defense's Office for
Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, which is overseeing the
rebuilding of much of Iraq's infrastructure, says that the office's
educational focus will be on "primary and secondary schools, rather
than universities". The United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) last week pledged to help to rebuild
Iraq's cultural and educational institutions, but made no specific
mention of science. And officials at the European Commission gave no
details of any plan to help Iraq's scientific bodies.


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