GW officials ended confusion last month over whether the Iraqi interim president is a former student by concluding that Ghazi al-Yawer took engineering classes here during the 1980s.
After failing to find al-Yawer’s name in University records in May, officials said the Associated Press and other news organizations were erroneously reporting that the Iraqi leader studied at GW. They said al-Yawer had actually taken classes at nearby Georgetown University.
But in June, after Georgetown denied reports that al-Yawer attended their school and after an exhaustive search for the Iraqi leader’s name in GW’s database, Media Relations officials said the original reports were correct.
The dispute was solved after Eric Solomon, a GW Media Relations specialist, spoke with Abdul Aziz Said, director of American University’s Center for Global Peace and a friend and former professor of al-Yawer. Said confirmed that the new Iraqi leader took civil engineering classes at GW between 1984 and 1986 but did not earn a degree.
Said’s assertion was validated after GW found that al-Yawer’s name was originally entered into the database without a hyphen. GW is not disclosing details about al-Yawer’s academic records because of federal privacy legislation, said Craig Linebaugh, associate vice president for Academic Planning and Development, which oversees the Registrar’s Office.
But while the confusion surrounding al-Yawer’s educational background has been put to rest, GW officials are still having difficulty tracking down his professors.
“I was there then, but I don’t remember him at all,” said an official in the School of Engineering and Applied Science who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Professors in the civil engineering department do not recall al-Yawer, the official said.
Theodore Toridis, a prominent figure in the engineering department during the mid-1980s, was unable to find any record of al-Yawer after an extensive search of his old grade sheets, the official said.
Said, the American University professor, said al-Yawer came to study in D.C. because he wanted to be in the nation’s capital and that he left GW before completing his coursework to get married in Saudi Arabia. Al-Yawer, 46, spent 15 years in Saudi Arabia before returning to Iraq in June 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
The Iraqi president, who also took English courses at AU, is “someone who has a breadth of knowledge and is very interested in a wide variety of subjects,” Said said. “I am very proud of him.”
Said added that he has spoken with al-Yawer since he became the new Iraqi president in May. “He knows that the task ahead of him and the Iraqis is gigantic, and he’s very optimistic about it.”
Al-Yawer, who traveled to the United States last month to attend the G-8 summit in Georgia and met with American officials in D.C., became Iraq’s interim president June 28. He will presumably keep his post until elections are held sometime next year.
Gordon Adams, director of the Elliott School of International Affairs Security Policy Program, said al-Yawer’s first concern should be his own security, which no doubt will be threatened with Iraqi insurgents stepping up attacks against government leaders.
“The first question after his survival is ‘What do you do about the insurrection?'” Adams said, adding that he believes the new president will have to work cooperatively with American authorities.
He also emphasized that al-Yawer would face many other difficulties during his short term, including rebuilding the economy and easing tensions between local Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish groups. The president comes from a prominent Sunni tribe.