Once havens of tolerance, Iraq’s universities are becoming battlefields in an escalating civil war. From Time magazine, with thanks to Jihad Watch News Editor Rebecca Bynum:
On May 3, when the members of Iraq’s new government were sworn in, Masar Sarhan al-Rubaiyi, 24, a pharmacy undergraduate at the University of Baghdad, decided to throw a party. As a supporter of a Shi’ite political party, al-Rubaiyi was celebrating the ascent of the country’s Shi’ite majority after decades of repression under Saddam Hussein. But the revelry turned sour after officials at the college of pharmacy asked al-Rubaiyi and his friends to break up the event, saying it violated a university policy banning sectarian gatherings on campus. The students refused the request, and al-Rubaiyi scuffled with the bodyguard of the dean of the pharmacy college, Mustafa al-Hiti, before heading home. He never made it. A few hours later, he was shot and killed by unknown assailants on a street near his house.
It’s what happened next that has put the school on edge””and induced worries that al-Rubaiyi’s death could spark a wider, bloodier conflagration. In the aftermath of the killing, mobs of Shi’ite students rioted at the college of pharmacy, blaming al-Hiti and his bodyguard””both of them Sunnis””for al-Rubaiyi’s murder and vowing revenge. Al-Hiti and his bodyguard deny having anything to do with the murder. As the violence spread to a cluster of adjacent colleges, Sunni faculty members had to be evacuated by security guards, colleagues and students. When the rioters showed up, they trashed classrooms and teachers’ offices. Then came the reprisals: the next day, a Shi’ite law student who was close to al-Rubaiyi was found dead, fueling suspicions of an organized attempt to silence prominent Shi’ite voices on campus. “The atmosphere is now very tense,” says Meitham, a pharmacy student who, along with others, does not want his full name used. “There is a sense that anything can happen, at any time.”
For millions of Iraqis, it’s a familiar concern. The country has been facing its most deadly spasm of violence in a year: last month alone, attacks killed more than 600 Iraqis, many of them Shi’ites targeted by Sunni jihadis bent on sowing civil war. The country’s universities have long served as the bulwark of Iraq’s secular society, refuges from the sectarian strife that threatens to rip the country apart. But now violence has come to the campuses. A rocket attack on an engineering college in the heart of Baghdad two weeks ago killed two students and injured 17 others. Bombs have been found at several colleges, leading many universities to institute full-body searches at their gates. Radical religious groups have infiltrated many student bodies, intimidating students and teachers alike. Some prominent Iraqis say the surge in extremism on campus holds grave portents for Iraq. “Once this poison enters the campus and infects the minds of our young people,” says Mohammad Jaffer al-Samarrai, a geography professor in Baghdad, “then all hope is lost for society.”…
Yes indeed. Read it all.