Between March 2003 and October 2008, 31,598 violent attacks against educational institutions were reported in Iraq, according to the Ministry of Education (MoE).508 Although overall security in Iraq had improved, the situation faced by schools, students, teachers and academics remained dangerous.509 The MoE reported 259 academics assassinated, another 72 abducted and 174 in detention between 2003 and 2008. The Ministry of Human Rights, however, reported 340 university professors and 446 students killed by insurgents and militias between 2005 and 2007. UNAMI Human Rights Reports indicate that between July 2005 and late March 2007 more than a hundred students were killed, mostly by suicide bombs, car bombs and mortar rounds targeted at universities and schools, with more than half the deaths occurring in two incidents in January 2007.510

Education under Attack (2007) reported that 296 people serving as education staff were killed in 2005; and 180 teachers were killed between February and November 2006.511 In 2007, the Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MODM) reported that at least 30 per cent of professors, doctors, pharmacists and engineers had fled the country since 2003.512

The number of attacks on education targets reached a peak in 2006 and fell with the drop in the overall level of violence in Iraq, following the introduction of 30,000 extra US troops in June 2007.513 By June 2008, the number of civilian deaths per month was down 75 per cent from July 2007 and the number of sectarian deaths in Baghdad had fallen from 1,600 in December 2006 to zero.514 By December 2008, the number of daily attacks in Iraq had dropped by 95 per cent from 180 per day to ten, according to the US military.

Attacks on education targets continued throughout 2007 and 2008 at a lower rate – but one that would cause serious concern in any other country. In 2007, 53 academics and one student were assassinated and one academic went missing, presumed assassinated, according to the Brussels Tribunal Group. Nineteen of the victims were kidnapped or abducted before being killed; one was beheaded.515

Analysis of English-language press reports of incidents in 2008 suggests that as many as ten academics and two intellectuals, one university student, 28 school students and two education ministry officials were killed; and one academic and one university student were injured. One academic (among those killed) and 60 students were kidnapped. Twenty academics were detained.516 Threats to education institutions remained at a high level in some areas; in the case of Basra University, threats against female students were openly pinned to billboards or spray-painted on walls.517

In one incident on 22 January 2008, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to al-Mutwra school in Ba'qubah, injuring 17 students and four teachers.518 On 22 March 2008, armed elements blew up a school building in Saydiyah.519 MNF-I, the Iraqi Army and Iraqi police units occupied more than 70 school buildings for military purposes in the Diyala governorate.520

In 2008, kidnapping was a serious problem for university students, particularly on the roads leading to Kirkuk city. On 20 April, nine students and two drivers were kidnapped at a fake checkpoint near Baquba. On 12 May, six university students were kidnapped by armed men near Baquba. On 24 June, four students were kidnapped on their way to Mosul university by gunmen. In addition, on 26 June five students were wounded when the bodyguards of the Minister of Education fired on student protests in Sabe' Abkar.521

Most of the academics killed were tracked down and assassinated at their place of work, at home or in a vehicle.

In May 2008, residents and government officials of Sadr City accused the Mahdi Army of closing down 86 schools and threatening teachers, staff and families of students.522

In central and southern Iraq, there were reported threats by militia, extremists or insurgent groups against schools and universities, urging them to modify activities, favour certain students or face violence. The institutions often complied with the threats, according to the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.523

In the first half of 2009, English-language media and human rights reports suggest six academics, three university students and four school students were killed; upwards of 20 university students and 12 schoolchildren were injured. The reduced numbers reflected continuing falls in the level of general violence.

By March 2009, insurgent attacks in Iraq had fallen from an average of 130 attacks per day in 2008 to about ten, according to Army Major General David G Perkins, Director for Strategic Effects at Multi-National Force, Iraq.524 Nevertheless, attacks on education targets continued, mostly in Mosul and Baghdad.525

On 11 February 2009, the morgue in Anbar, west of Baghdad, received the body of an Anbar university psychology professor, Izz al-Din Ayyoub, who was shot down near Falluja by gunmen as he left his house for work.526 On 26 February, a blast aimed at a police patrol wounded a number of Baghdad University students in southern Baghdad.527 On 26 February, gunmen reportedly killed a literature professor in Mosul.528 In early March, a car bomb exploded near the Medical University in Mosul killing three Iraqi soldiers and wounding ten civilians (mostly college students), the majority of whom were critically injured. There was light damage to the university building.529 On 14 March, Dr Murad Ahmed Shihab, a professor at the College of Administration and Economy at Mosul University, was killed by gunmen.530 On 17 March, a student of management and economy was reported killed by gunmen in Western Mosul.531 On 25 March, four female schoolchildren were killed and seven others wounded when an explosive detonated near a primary school in Mosul as the children were leaving to go home. They were all under 12 years old.532 On 21 April, a female university professor was assassinated in front of her home in western Mosul; police declined to give her name.533 On 24 May, an unnamed university teacher was ambushed by gunmen and shot dead in Al Andulus, Mosul.534 On 25 May, gunmen opened fire on three female students in Mosul as they left their school in 17 Tamouz neighbourhood, wounding all three.535 On 22 June, three university students were killed, and 12 other students and their minibus driver were injured when a roadside bomb was detonated during the rush hour in Sadr City, a Shiite neighbourhood of Baghdad.536

The UN Secretary-General reported "frequent attacks on schools, children and teachers" in Iraq between 2006 and 2007. In January 2007, members of an armed group were believed to have deliberately targeted a girls' school in western Baghdad, killing five students and injuring 21 others. In June 2007, members of an armed group reportedly abducted 30 students, aged 17 to 19, from a secondary school in Saydiyah.537

[Refworld note: The source report "Education under Attack 2010" was posted on the UNESCO website ( in pdf format, with country chapters run together. Original footnote numbers have been retained here.]

508 Brendan O'Malley, "Iraq: Killing Academics Is a War Crime," University World News, November 9, 2008.

509 UNESCO, "Stop Jeopardizing the Future of Iraq," (briefing document, International Conference Right to Education in Crisis-Affected Countries, Paris, October 30 - November 1, 2008).

510 United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Human Rights Reports from May 2005 to December 2007,; Brendan O'Malley, "Iraq: Killing Academics is a War Crime," University World News, November 9, 2008; Working Group on the Protection of Iraqi Intellectuals, academics, teachers, students and educational institutions,,,,of,,,protection%academics.pdf.

511 Brendan O'Malley, Education Under Attack: A Global Study on Targeted Political and Military Violence Against Education Staff, Students, Teachers, Union and Government Officials, and Institutions (Paris: UNESCO, 2007).

512 US Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Iraq (US Department of State, 2009).

513 Aseel Kami, "Sharp Drop in Violence in Iraq Since June – Ministry," Reuters, October 22, 2007.

514 Thaindian News, "US Reports Drop in Violence, Increase in Security in Iraq," June 13, 2008.

515 The Brussels Tribunal, "List of Killed, Threatened or Kidnapped Iraqi Academics,"

516 Analysis by author of Iraqi media reports.

517 US Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Iraq.

518 UNSC, Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict (2009), 13.

519 Ibid., 14.

520 Ibid., 14.

521 UNAMI, !Human Rights Report, 1 January – 30 June 2008!, 11.

522 IRIN News, "Iraq: Shia Militiamen Attack Aid Convoys in Baghdad Suburb," May 1, 2008.

523 US Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Iraq.

524 Gerry Gilmore, "Iraq Violence Continues to Ebb as Security Improves, General Says," March 25, 2009,….

525 Steven Lee Myers and Campbell Robertson, "Insurgency Remains Tenacious in North Iraq," New York Times, July 9, 2009.

526 Al-Jazeera, "Academician Shot Down Near Fallujah," February 11, 2009.

527 Aswat al-Iraq, "IED Kills Officer, Injures 6 in Baghdad," February 26, 2009.

528 Campbell Robertson, "Iraq Hands Death Penalty to 28 Cultists for Attacks," New York Times, February 26, 2009.

529 Daniel W. Smith, "Students Wounded, Policewoman Killed in Mosul," March 14, 2009,….

530 Kurdish News Agency (AKnews), "A University Professor is Killed in Mosul," March 15, 2009.

531 Aswat al-Iraq, "University Student Killed in Ninewa," March 17, 2009.

532 Xinhua, "Four Schoolchildren Killed in Bomb Attack in Iraq's Mosul," March 25, 2009.

533 Press TV, "Another Iraqi Professor Killed", April 21, 2009,; and The Journal of Turkish Weekly, "Iraqi Professor Assassinated in Mosul," April 21, 2009,….

534 Rod Nordland, "At Least 22 Killed in Iraq Attacks," New York Times, May 24, 2009.

535 Aswat al-Iraq, "Gunman Wounds 3 Female Students in Mosul," May 25, 2009.

536 AFP, "Six Killed in Baghdad Bombings," June 22, 2009.

537 UNSC, Report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, A/62/609-S/2007/757 (December 21, 2007), as cited in Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008, 179.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.