Presenting the award to HRH Princess Ghida Talal is IIE Vice Chair & SRF Chairman, Dr. Henry Jarecki (left) and IIE Chairman Emeritus & SRF Board Member, Dr. Henry Kauffman (right)
Mr. Johnson, Dr. Kaufman, Dr. Jarecki, Dr. Goodman, Mr. Russo,
I cannot possibly express to you what this award means to me. Even as I acknowledge my difficulty in trying to justify it, I must tell you how profoundly grateful I am to receive it.
I regard this humanitarian award as a great honor. But I must add that I also view it as an obligation. This is why I would like to start my remarks with a promise – a promise to remain committed to the protection of scholars in war zones and a promise to continue to speak out against their relentless and inhuman persecution. It is only by helping to rescue these scholars that we can ensure that they will go back to their homelands and pass on to the next generation a better country than the one they left behind.
I am so proud to be associated with the Scholar Rescue Fund and its amazing work. The Fund does exactly what its title suggests – it comes to the rescue of scholars who are being targeted and assassinated in countries stricken by war.
These scholars are being pursued, harassed, tortured and killed for committing the only crime of continuing to teach and impart knowledge. We all have a duty to stop their persecution and to protect them. We hold a responsibility towards them as they in turn hold the key to the education of our children.
Since its creation in 2002, the Scholar Rescue Fund has assisted scholars from 39 countries. A year ago, faced with the terrible state of chaos and crisis in Iraq, it decided to create the Iraqi Scholar Rescue Fund.
The terrible reality is that the scholars who remain in Iraq are living in constant danger. International agencies have reported the targeted killings of over 1,000 of Iraq’s senior academics and estimated that thousands have fled the country. As the prominent Iraqi professor Abdul Sattar Jawad wrote movingly: “The mass kidnappings of scholars in Iraq underscore the chilling fact that the most dangerous place in Iraq is not the mosque, the marketplace or the military checkpoint, but the classroom.”
In response to this academic emergency, the Iraqi Scholar Rescue Fund has stepped in with the aim of assisting up to 200 Iraqi scholars over the next three years by providing them with fellowships and placing them in host institutions within the Middle East to avoid any resulting brain drain from the region. When conditions permit, these scholars will return to their country and start the painful process of rebuilding their academic institutions.
These scholars are the intellectual capital of not just Iraq but the entire Arab world. Saving them and providing them with a temporary safe haven are the only ways to guarantee that Iraqi universities will flourish again and that destroyed societies will be rebuilt. It is the only way to restore Baghdad to its historical role as a home for intellectual greatness.
I can only accept this award on behalf of all the unsung heroes behind the scenes who have made the dream of The Scholar Rescue Fund a reality – the Chairman and Trustees of the Institute of International Education, led by the driving force behind the Scholar Rescue Fund, the indefatigable Henry Jarecki, as well as the pillars of the Institute of International Education, Thomas Johnson, Henry Kaufman and Tom Russo.
In addition, I cannot but single out a special person who has played an instrumental and enriching role in my life as a student at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, a man who has passionately embraced the cause of persecuted scholars, my former Dean and great friend and now the President of the Institute of International Education, Dr. Allan Goodman.
Most of all, this humanitarian award belongs to the thousands of persecuted scholars around the world who risk their lives on a daily basis for their students and for their dedication to scholarship.
These scholars are the true heroes of this story. We cannot allow their voices to be silenced; we cannot allow their ideas to be snuffed out. They are counting on us to save them. To return to the wise words of Dr. Jawad, “we must continue to find a “lifeboat” for every scholar who faces the murderous mob”.