March 28, 2015

Refuge for a Threatened Iraqi Scholar

By Holly Rittenhouse

Ball State University is currently providing a safe haven for an Iraqi scholar whose life was threatened by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Ball State’s Center for International Development and the Intensive English Institute are working in collaboration with the Institute of International Education's Scholar Rescue Fund® (IIE-SRF) to protect one of the many scholars who face great harm in their home countries.

 “Since 2002, IIE-SRF has assisted more than 575 scholars from 51 countries, placing them at over 300 host partner institutions in 40 countries around the world,” according to the IIE-SRF website. IIE-SRF was launched in 2007 “in response to the large scale emergency threatening the intellectual capital of Iraq”. ISIS has closed universities, threatened intellectuals who promote ideals oppositional to ISIS’ beliefs, and destroyed precious ancient artifacts and sites which ISIS considers as false idols. Many of the artifacts have even been sold on the black market.

IIE-SRF “formalizes an unwavering commitment that IIE has demonstrated for over 90 years to preserve the lives, voices, and ideas of scholars around the globe.” Thus far, the Iraq IIE-SRF has rescued more than 250 threatened scholars. Ball State’s involvement with programs such as IIE-SRF makes it “one of the ten most active U.S. universities in the field of higher education assistance in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.”

Ball State’s Center for International Development (CID) and the Intensive English Institute (IEI) were the main proponents in procuring this opportunity for the visiting scholar. CID’s mission is “to assist in the political, social, economic and educational development of the world's poorest countries.” The center “serves as a unifying resource for faculty members with shared interests in alleviating poverty and contributing to the economic and social development of the world's most fragile and conflict-affected countries.”

The Intensive English Institute’s mission is twofold: “to facilitate international students’ progress in English proficiency and the knowledge of US culture necessary for success in academic coursework in the United States” and “to encourage the development and research of best practices in the area of language teaching and learning.” The IEI has welcomed the visiting scholar as one of its own instructors and provided him with the opportunity to teach several English courses to international students. The scholar is also continuing his research during his time at Ball State.

The visiting scholar (who wishes to remain anonymous) would like to express his appreciation for those involved with this program. “What I would love to emphasize is the outstanding efforts exerted by the SRF team, represented by the head of the Iraqi SRF team Nada Alsoze who took the pain of contacting me on a daily basis to make sure that I'm safe and to ensure my safe exit outside…Iraq” says the scholar. He continues, “The arrangements made by the host University, Ball State and the CID, were very timely. The reception was very warm and generous.”

The scholar is grateful for the people he works with in the CID and IEI. “So far, my stay at Ball State has been greatly rewarding and satisfactory. I met wonderful people who have been generous enough to understand the hardships I went through. I'm surrounded by love, the CID staff are amazing and so is the IEI staff. It is definitely not easy to suddenly lose everything: a home, a job, a PhD study and many other things,” he says, “ I have those wonderful people who made it easier for me to overcome my loss and the threats that I faced.”

This scholar is safe in the United States, but he holds concern for his colleagues who are still in danger. “I’m glad to be rescued but I would be…happy to know that other scholars from my university are being rescued, too. I keep receiving information from those who left the city that they are suffering a lot because they are not welcomed anywhere. The country which they thought they belong to is now turning its back on them. They are simply perceived as ISIS or supportive of ISIS,” says the scholar.

The IIE-SRF unceasingly works to make a positive difference in the lives of scholars and their families around the globe. “At the heart of IIE-SRF is the idea that each scholar we help who continues his or her work in safety is a beacon of hope in our world.”

For more information on ISIS’ destruction in Iraq and elsewhere, visit

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