“Staying here is like committing suicide.”

Via the NYT: Cheated of Future, Iraqi Graduates Want to Flee

In interviews with more than 30 students from seven universities, all but four said they hoped to flee immediately after receiving their degrees. Many said they did not expect Iraq to stabilize for at least a decade.


The class of 2007 came of age during a transformation that according to students has harvested tragedy from seeds of hope. They are the last remnants of a middle class that has already fled by the tens of thousands. As such they embody the country’s progression from innocence to bitter wisdom amid dashed expectations and growing animosity toward the Americans.

Now, one can argue that the interviews were only with thirty students, and to some degree that is fair–as one can only infer so much from that small of a sample. Still, it is not a stretch to say that the situation that the educated middle class, especially the young is a dire and that fleeing the country is a rather logical option.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Director Mitch says:

    And interviewing 30 U.S. university students would say what about our country?

  2. Iraq faces the same situation as has Lebanon in the past – a large diaspora of intellectual talent into the West to both find gainful employment and secure safety for their generations.


  3. Anderson says:

    This one’s easy. If *you* were graduating with a marketable Ph.D., would *you* get the hell out of Iraq?

  4. Bithead says:

    Why do we continue with this charade, that everything was so much better under Saddam Hussein?

    Was this small number of students, a collection of his followers?

  5. bains says:

    Leave it to the NYTimes to paint as negative a picture as possible. Let’s see, of the seven schools, four are in or around Baghdad. Where again is most of the violence centered?

    Several students about to graduate said the attacks had only hardened their resolve to complete their studies. Indeed, at a number of universities in Baghdad the class of 2007 has tried to make the best of a difficult situation.

    Flee? Why not “leave?”

    At a graduation party at the University of Technology here [Baghdad] in April, students sprayed silly string on each other near cardboard simulations of mortar tubes and rockets — macabre parodies of Iraq’s situation.

    Yep, getting ready to flee.

    Looters stole ancient artifacts and destroyed buildings at Basra University, for instance, only days after British troops reached the area in 2003.

    I thought this meme had been debunked.

    Mr. Alabidin said his class of law students in Kirkuk had shrunk to just 30 at graduation, from 85 in 2003, because of the bloodshed and fear.

    Huh? Frankly given the turmoil, it is astounding that the universities are graduating any students. But the times admits this later:

    In fact, [Mr. Rafid] and his peers risked their lives to complete their studies.

    Come on NYTimes, which way is it?

    Given that they are college grads, one would presume that their views of Islam are a bit more moderate that those espoused by the waring factions. Naturally they would feel unwelcome by the more fundamentalist groups, and until Iraq stabilizes, it is only prudent to sell ones services in a more hospitable environment.

  6. Derrick says:


    I know what you are trying to say, but the fact that they 1) Risked their lives to get an education and 2) Are ready to flee the country as soon as they get one; is really not mutually exclusive. Where else are they going to get a degree in higher education that allows them to have middle-class jobs to feed their families and guarantee that their is an actual family to feed by fleeing Iraq?

    I know that sample size is important, but I’m from Michigan with 2 of the top 30 Universities in the country, yet those graduates flee the state as soon as they get a degree because the industries and careers aren’t as attractive as in other locations. I suspect that they are no different than than the junior “Bushies” who go over to the Green Zone to make a name for themselves in some high Administration role above their experience, but know that upon 9 months they will have a great job waiting for them in the states.

  7. Anjin-San says:

    The result of our “liberation” of Iraq is that the people of Iraq have traded one nightmare for another.

    This seems like a poor return for the thousands of American lives lost and the hundreds of billions spent.

    When you factor in the usefulness of Iraq to Al Qaeda as a recruiting/training ground for new terrorists and the fact that Saddam was not, after all, a threat to America, you come up with the hard fact that Bush’s war is a disaster for all parties involved, except perhaps for Bin Laden.

  8. Bithead says:

    Yes, after all, freedom is such a nightmare, right Anji?

  9. bains says:

    Derrick, my point wasn’t that risking ones life in order to obtain a college or post-grad degree is mutually exclusive to wanting to ply ones wares elsewhere. It was to point out the endemic schizophrenic reporting of the NYTimes, so eager to accentuate US caused failure that they lose focus on the truly significant aspects of the story.

    It is certainly understandable that graduates are leaving Baghdad and Iraq for greener pastures, as your anecdote accentuates, but to frame it as “fleeing” does disservice to the story. Framed thusly, it grossly understates the students resolve to actually stay under such adverse conditions just to attain that college degree.

    But the NYTimes is not really interested in that story, it does not follow the narrative they wish to foist.

  10. anjin-san says:


    Nice talking point, if not very original.

    Not being able to leave you home without fear of violent death is a nightmare. Many Iraqi men have taken to having their names and contact info tattooed on them so that if they are killed their families will be notified and they will not end up in an anonymous grave. Of course the ones who are blown to smithereens are out of luck.

    Your lack of compassion for the suffering of the people of Iraq comes as no big suprise…

  11. Bithead says:

    It’s not a matter of lack of compassion, a response and recognition of simple fact would be more like it.

    How much investigation had you done into the plight of America, under the power of the British? Tell me, for example, how easy life was for the signatories to the declaration of independence.

    The point I’m making here, is that freedom comes at a cost. It surprises me not one bit that you haven’t made that connection. Just so you know throwing off oppression, is never easy. It is usually quite bloody. It is, however, in the end, the only choice to be made.

  12. Anjin-San says:


    Your analogy between Bush’s attack on Iraq and the American Revelation is so lame it is almost beyond belief.

    Americans chose the war for independence. The situation in Iraq was imposed from outside by military force.

    In reality, the “quest for democracy” in Iraq is a rather hurried, lame re-branding of the war after it turned out there were no WMD. Only the gullible among us bought into it.

    Well, the Iraqi government is getting ready to tell us to get the hell out of their country. After that happens, I suspect we shall see how “free” they actually are.

  13. Anjin-San says:

    It is, however, in the end, the only choice to be made.

    If the people of Iraq had made such a choice, you would have a point. Since they did not, your argument is quite invalid. Welcome to Reason 101.

  14. Bithead says:

    So because by your lights they don’t have a choice, you make the choice for them, allowing them to one wish him the situation that they were in, considering that option, that lack of freedom far more palatable by your lights. It is, after all, easier to do that than to actually stand up for individual freedom. And you consider, apparently, a lack of freedom a lesser problem.

    This says more about you than you imagine.

    You’re trying to have it both ways, Anji, and the real world simply doesn’t work that way.

    And no, Anji, the comparison is quite valid when limited to the consequences paid for that act of standing up for freedom.

    Read the link, and particularly pay attention to the cost paid for having signed on to that document, and tell me how that substantially different from the costs Iraqis are paying just now. You’ll find the differences are not substantial at all.

  15. Anjin-San says:


    How simple are you? The people of Iraq could have risen up and deposed Saddam any time they wished. Recent history is full of examples of people tossing dictators out of power.

    If you do buy into the rather comic notion that the war in Iraq is about “freeing” the people there, then it is you that claim the right to make the choice for them. We are going to invade your country and bomb the crap out of it because WE have decided you need to be free. (The we had to destroy the village in order to save it thing)

    Tell me Bit, since you are captain freedom, do you have any goods in your home that were make in the sweatshops run by the brutal dictators in China? Bush does not have any problem doing business with these cats. Funny how we only seem to need to free folks who sit atop an ocean of oil.

    If people yearn to be free, to depose a dictator, they should rise up and free themselves. We have seen it happen many times. Poland, Roumania, The Philippines, and so on. The fact that so many dictators are in power in the middle east suggests that these societies have not yet reached the tipping point where they are ready to evolve towards governments that are more open and responsive to the needs of their citizens.

    Then of course there is the fact that we actively support dictators in a number of other middle eastern nations because it is convenient for us.

    If the people of Iraq want to be free, it is a problem for the people of Iraq to solve. I don’t have any business telling them how to conduct their affairs. I am far more concerned with rather alarming erosion of freedom right here at home over the last 6 years.

  16. Bithead says:

    How simple are you? The people of Iraq could have risen up and deposed Saddam any time they wished.

    You completely ignore the thanks from the people there, and the pleas that we shouldn’t leave, yet. Or is that all fabricated, in your mind?

    Also, I’m interested; how do you suppose it is they would be able to have done that, any more than the Chinese you mention?

    Indeed; what would have prevented the French for example from rising up against their German occupiers? What business had we to insert ourselves into that situation?

    How does your condemnation apply to our actions in Iraq, and not to our actions in France?

    Your logic as usual seems lacking. I have long suspected you’re simply throwing out arguments to have something to say, in hopes of getting the last word.

    Thanks for confirming this for me, without my having to ask.

  17. Anjin-San says:


    Crack a history book. Germany declared war on us. We fought them in a number of places. The liberation of France was a desirable byproduct of this.

    And of course these same history books you will learn that there was an ongoing resistance in France to the German occupation during which a great number of French citizens willingly laid down their lives for the freedom of their country.

    As usual, you analogy sucks. There is a big difference from holding the citizens of a country accountable for the action of their own government and assisting a nation that is the victim of foreign aggression.