Iraqi Academics Find Refuge In Damascus

With midterm exams over, it would be natural for these students to head home for a well-earned break.

But that's out of the question, because home is Iraq.

"Before you die, if you're a Muslim, you say a few words," says Hadeel al-Aradhi. "And before I'd leave the house in Iraq, I'd always used to say them because I'd never know if I would come back home."

Here in Damascus, these students have found safety — and have picked up their studies at a new private university established and staffed by Iraqis. CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports.

Walid Sadoon is one of the founders. He, like most Iraqis, would like to believe the war will end soon.

But he's betting big money it won't.

He's investing in an ambitious new campus for the Science and Technology University in Damascus.

The January bombing of Baghdad University proved that insurgents were on a bloody drive to kill students and assassinate academics.

"We lost everything. The only thing that I have gained is the safety of myself and my wife and my son," said Said al Madufai, who used to teach at Baghdad's Medical school.

"It was a disaster." says al Madufai, tearing up. "Our country was —" but he can't finish the sentence because he is too upset.

First, al Madfai's wife was wounded by a stray bullet. Then, after several university colleagues were assassinated, he discovered his own name on a death list.

"My friends were killed. A lot of my family, people are lost, I don't know where they are," says al Madufai.

Al Madfai is lucky enough to have found safety in Syria — and a job at the new University. Thousands of new Iraqi refugees arrive every week without that luxury. By law, Very few Iraqis are allowed to work — and life is a struggle.

The students at Science and Technology University know they're lucky, too — even to be able to afford the $7,000 dollars annual tuition.

But they do share one thing with those much less fortunate.

"We pray to God we'll all go home one day," says Shahd Ghaili, a student. "I mean, everyone just wants to go home."

It's the universal dream of all refugees.
  • Amy Clark

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