University of Mosul President Looks to a Post-Da’esh Future
AMSTERDAM—The ancient Iraqi city of Mosul is on the front line in the war with Da’esh, also known as Islamic State. Since the group captured the city in June 2014, the University of Mosul has kept going in temporary locations in the city of Dohuk, about 75 kilometers to the north. Al-Fanar Media spoke with Obay Sa’id al-Dewachi, president of the University of Mosul, when he was attending a conference here recently.
On January 14, Iraqi forces re-captured the original university campus, as part of the campaign to retake Mosul, according to media reports. The city is the last major Islamic State stronghold in Iraq.
Established as a university in 1968, the University of Mosul was considered one of the best in Iraq. Its 22 faculties covered a range of disciplines, though it is best known for science and medicine. At the time of the Islamic State invasion it had about 30,000 students, 700 full professors and more than 2,000 instructors. Obay al-Dewachi has been president since 2004.
Da’esh seized the university campus while students were taking exams. The full extent of the physical destruction the group wrought on university property and in the surrounding area is not yet known, but thousands of books and manuscripts in the university library are believed to have been destroyed. But Da’esh did not shut down the university completely.
The university has been operating in exile in Duhok. (See a related article “The University of Mosul Could Show the Way in Post-War Reconstruction.”
Obay Sa’id al-Dewachi has deep family roots in Mosul. His father, Sa’id al-Dewachi, was a distinguished historian who wrote more than 30 books on the history of Mosul and related subjects. His father was also the first director of the Museum of Mosul, a post he held from its founding in 1952 until his retirement in 1968. Obay al-Dewachi’s grandfather was Sheikh Ahmad al-Dewachi, a well-known mufti and Islamic jurist.
Al-Dewachi talked in the interview about recent events at the University of Mosul, and his thoughts about the role of the university in Iraqi society after the war.
– It was reported that you survived an attempt to kill you.
It’s true. I spent one month in hospital in Turkey. The bullets went in here and came out here [pointing to his neck]. There were also four bullets in my back. The university gives contracts for construction projects based on competitive bidding. Da’esh came to me and told me they wanted five or 10 percent of the value of the contracts. I refused, and so they shot me.