Kurdistan: instability wrecks research and education

I agree with some of the scientists who wrote to Nature from nations experiencing civil unrest: instability can wreck educational and research infrastructure (Nature 576, 382–384; 2019). Several civil wars over the past half-century have certainly done so in Kurdistan — the geographical region divided between Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. The continuing conflict against the Islamist terrorist group ISIS and Turkey is making matters worse. And civil war now looms in Rojava, the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria.

The Kurds have been considered second-class citizens in their homelands for centuries. Other than in Iraqi Kurdistan, they have no right to speak in their own language or to wear traditional attire in state institutions. Research students must undergo security screening and are excluded from some subjects, including electronics and aerospace engineering.

It pains me to think what another generation might have to live through in the region. I was a child in the 1980s, when Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons killed more than 3,000 Kurdish civilians in one day. He bombarded my city, Saqqez in Iran, forcing my family and thousands of others to flee. After the war, the damaged infrastructure of Iraq’s and Iran’s Kurdish regions — often there was electricity for just a few hours each day — prevented most research laboratories from functioning.

Nature 577, 318 (2020)

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