1776: Equality in Servitude

A dozen or so years ago, I took temporary leave from Georgetown University and moved to Iraq for two years to preside over The American University of Iraq-Sulaimani. Some of the young men and women enrolled in our fledgling university carried the double burden of having survived both the American invasion and the Kurdish Civil War that had occurred twenty years earlier. To give a sense of the difficulties the university had to contend with, we found it necessary to develop a scholarship category – “Anfal students” – for those whose parents had been gassed to death by Saddam Hussein’s cousin, nicknamed “Chemical Ali,” during the Kurdish genocide in Halabja and elsewhere. More than 175,000 Kurds died in that offensive, whose name, “Anfal,” means “the spoils of war.” Those who died in Halabja convulsed, fell to the ground, and choked in their own green vomit before succumbing. In America, we talk of “hardship” students. Few have experienced trauma of the kind our students in Iraq endured.

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