Iraq’s tragedy

February 4, 2016

Re the article “Top 15 universities in the Arab world announced” and the leader “Deserts begin to bloom” (27 January), it was pleasing to see universities from Lebanon and Egypt in the top 10 rankings, alongside those from the wealthier nations of the region. But overlooked was the country that, along with Egypt and Lebanon, features in the famous Arabic saying “Cairo writes, Beirut publishes, Baghdad reads”.

Iraq has a proud history of pioneering academic achievement, stretching back many centuries at least to the foundation in Baghdad of the Mustansariya Madrasa in the early 13th century AD. People are still reading in Baghdad, but Iraq’s fall in higher education achievement on the global stage must be ranked as one of greatest of the many afflictions this poor country has suffered in recent decades.

Roger Matthews
Professor of Near Eastern archaeology
University of Reading

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