(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Hassan Khalid Hayderi, Iraq “Either you give us good marks or you will die"

Hassan Khalid Hayderi, Iraq “Either you give us good marks or you will die"
Afif Sarhan/IRIN

Hassan Khalid Hayderi, 54, is a professor of mathematics at Basra University, 550km south of the capital, Baghdad. He and his family are leaving Iraq as soon as his brother finds him a job in Jordan because he has received death threats from students demanding easy exams and better marks.

“After 20 years as professor of mathematics in Basra and Baghdad, I have decided to leave my job and the country. Teachers in Iraq have been targeted since the US-led invasion in 2003, but from February last year our situation has worsened because of threats from inside our classrooms.

“Students started demanding easier exams and if they don’t pass the year, it might mean your death. Either you give good marks or you are going to be killed.

“When I leave my home every morning to go to the university, I fear a bullet is going to rip through my head or chest. I constantly find notes with demands of good marks or sometimes shorter lessons from students on my desk.

“Lessons that used to last for one hour are given nowadays in half-an-hour to meet such requests.

“Two of my colleagues have been killed in the past months for refusing to cater to such requests. Sometimes even fathers come after you asking for good marks for their sons. Once I refused to listen to one of them and the result was the kidnapping of my 23-year-old son, Abdel-Kader. He was released after I let a student - who scored very badly in exams - pass the year.

“A week ago I received another threat. I know who sent it. It is a student who failed an exam before the summer holiday. Unfortunately in this case, he is not asking for a better mark, he said outright that he was going to kill me because his father beat him due to his poor marks.

“The situation is even worse for women teachers. You barely find them giving lessons because most of them either have fled the country or have been forced to leave the colleges. Today, they are suffering without a job to support their kids.

“The government isn’t doing anything to protect us. In the southern areas especially you depend on [local] tribes to give you the minimum of protection but with violence increasing, even tribal leaders are becoming useless. The best way to guarantee your life and the life of your family is to flee Iraq.

“The only thing that I ask from God is protection until I leave this hell that Iraq has turned into so that I can save myself and my family.”


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