INTERVIEW: Iraqi Fulbright scholars relay positive messages

Posted 12:03pm February 7

by Marcus Mrowka
U-WIRE Washington Bureau Chief

The first Iraqi Fulbright scholars in 14 years arrived in Washington, D.C., over the weekend and prepared for a week of orientation before being shipped off to four U.S. universities to begin their studies.

The program was re-established in October by Ambassador Paul Bremer and two bi-national committees reviewed over 400 applications selecting 23 students and two scholars.

“Each of you should know that we are counting on you to make important contributions to the renewal of intellectual political and economic freedom in Iraq, said Secretary of State Colin Powell as he greeted the scholars Monday. “An Iraq that values and protects these precious freedoms is sure to give great gifts of knowledge and peace to all of humankind,”

The scholars were very excited to be in the United States and many characterized their trip and experience so far as a “beautiful and exciting thing.” They detailed the past atrocities of the former regime under Saddam Hussein and spoke of a close future relationship between Iraq and America.

“The former regime wanted to kill the spirits of scientists and students,” said Rawand Darwesh, a scholar from Arbil who will study journalism. “The Coalition, America, is not occupying, but liberating.”

Luma Ateya agreed with Darwesh saying that she “believed the terrorists and opposition in Iraq will give up in the end.”

Ateya, originally from Baghdad, Iraq, is studying literature. She is especially grateful for this opportunity as one of the six women in the program.

“This represents a victory against traditions,” she said. “I believe women should be just like men and should be able to do anything.”

Zeyed Jassim had a special message for Americans. He said that over the years Hussein had used bad images of Americans on television and in schools to implant hatred by Iraqis. The linguistics scholar said that the Iraqi people were very smart and are realizing their newfound freedoms.

“There is a big and powerful will in the Iraqi people,” said Darwesh in agreement. “The true image of Iraq is of great gratitude.”

The scholars will leave Washington after this week and will take part in pre-academic programs at four universities: Indiana University, University of Oregon, University of California-Santa Cruz, and the University of Arizona. In the summer they will go to universities around the country to complete a one or two-year Master’s programs.

“I hope we can all live happily under a system of development and equality,” Darwesh said.

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