Baghdad University Democracy Promotion
University Democracy Promotion project was based at Baghdad
University, the largest university in Iraq. The student
project committee decided to name the newsletter and debating
society as Al-Jami'a Baghdad. As with Babylon Democracy
Promotion (BDP), the project in Baghdad University was
met with some suspicion. But again, with a no-censorship
policy, open debate and elections for the committee membership
reached 513, making it the largest society in the university.
At the Annual General Meeting, 242 members cast their
votes for 28 candidates with 6 females and 3 males winning
seats on the committee.
attending the Annual General Meeting.
voting at the AGM.
at the AGM.
from our experience in Hillah, from the outset we selected
a couple of the more moderate members of Moqtada's supporters
on campus to work with the newsletter and debating society.
This gave a green light to students of every persuasion,
including those that had associated with these Islamists
groups as well as those who did not, to join and become
active in the newsletters and debates. Furthermore, as
was done in the Hillah project, we devoted several pages
to Religious Affairs and worked to present moderate and
progressive opinions from respected scholars which undermined
any basis for radical thought.
open forums of the newsletter and debates bred more informed
and more tolerant views which saw student opinion sway
more and more to the centre ground. Many had joined the
newsletter and debating society and were increasingly
distancing themselves from the Moqtada group. This left
a hardcore extremist group which had haemorrhaged the
support they used to enjoy amongst the university student
body to the IPO society, which had easily become the largest
group on campus.
their growing weakness and the society's increasing influence,
Moqtada's group put forward one of their people to run
for the top position of Editor-in-Chief at the April Annual
General Meeting. He was resoundingly defeated by Miss
Zahra Noor Al-Deen who received 184 votes. As a result
he accused the organisation and society of being a Zionist
outfit. The head of the Moqtada group in the university
took this cause up and started issuing leaflets indirectly
accusing the work of the newsletter and debating team
of being Zionists and saying it was not permissible to
join them or to help them. The newsletter team responded
by printing all the details of the occurrence in the next
issue which won them the support of the student body -
including the more moderate elements of the Moqtada group.
Students a Voice
Students Affair section in the newsletter has become an
essential read for students and integral to student life.
76% of respondents believed that the newsletter expressed
their university concerns to a good or excellent degree.
One student commented on a feedback form:
Jinan Kadhim Ahdhyia, 3rd Year Sociology Student:
have definitely proved your success, distinction, and
neutrality. You have indeed been our voice when we have
had no voice, and our ears when no other would hear our
calls. I salute you with all my heart for the bravery
that your newspaper possesses, which is our newspaper.
I wish you success in serving this country."
reading the newsletter.
newsletter is used by students as means of raising concerns
and issues about university life. For example, after the
first issue many students either submitted articles or
contacted the committee urging articles to be written
to complain about the walls that had been built separating
the various colleges in Baghdad University which were
built after student protests last academic year. These
were published in the second issue and the university
eventually demolished these walls. Similarly students
raised concerns in issue 15 regarding the state of some
of the faculty departments. The university took up this
issue and refurbished most of the departments in question
to the delight of students and staff, who responded with
a thank you article in the subsequent issue.
and Freedom of Opinion
Abdulamir Al-Juboury - Humanities Faculty:
newsletter delighted me as I found many varied and interesting
500 articles have been submitted to the newsletter, of
which more than half were for the opinions section. This
has resulted in very active and heated debates being instigated
within the student newsletter. Over 90% of respondents
felt that the newsletter exposed them to an opinion different
to theirs, and initiated a degree of discussion amongst
their friends. The society decided to focus the debates
on non-political student related issues. This has proven
to be very successful with some debates seeing an audience
of 200 members. Topics included university uniforms, gender
segregation, female participation on campus, increasing
petrol prices and relationships on campus.