Democratization and Radicalization in Iraqi Campuses

By Ali Latif
December 2006

Executive Summary

From their heyday in the 1970s and 80s, Iraq's Universities have undergone a steady decline. Decades of existence under a repressive regime together with economic disasters of wars and sanctions have left much of the intellectual and physical infrastructure in pieces. Following the Iraq war in 2003, universities mirrored the rest of the country in terms of the tremendous upheaval they experienced, a period that fostered hope as well as anxiety over the as of yet uncertain future of the country.

Liberated from the binds of dictatorship, universities have become the hub for the myriad of religious, political and social movements newly emerging after decades of suppression. With this influx, universities have witnessed the radicalization of the student body as differing ideologies compete for ascendancy and influence on campus. This has led to an increase in tensions on campus with intimidation and acts of violence against staff and students becoming a significant problem there, threatening the new freedoms students have enjoyed since the collapse of the Baath regime.

In order to counter this worrying trend of radicalization, the Iraqi Prospect Organisation has run several democracy promotion projects at Iraqi universities over the past three years. Our experiences have showed us that there is a strong desire on the part of students to embrace democratic principles in order to express their views and concerns in an effective manner. Moreover, we have found that projects that foster these very tools of dialogue and tolerance can effectively undermine the radicalizing elements on campus and consolidate democratic principles amongst a crucial section of Iraq's civil society.

This report gives a brief overview of the state of Iraq's universities and student life as well as a synopsis of IPO's activities at Iraqi universities over the past three years.


The full report is available online at
You can find this page online at