Education key to future of Iraq

Education is key if the people of Iraq are to have the opportunity to live in a just and democratic society, a fringe organised at the Liberal Democrats Conference in Glasgow by the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, heard.

The fringe, Iraq in Crisis, was chaired by Kathy Wallis, Junior Vice-President of the NASUWT, and heard from Dr Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary of the NASUWT, Abdullah Mushin, NASUWT and Lord Paddy Ashdown, former Liberal Democrat leader.

Tens of thousands of children have been deprived of education because of the crisis unfolding in Iraq.

At the same time, teachers and trade unionists are being persecuted and in some cases have been assassinated.

Dr Patrick Roach said:

“The NASUWT agrees that building peace must be given priority in Iraq. That begins with building inclusive and democratic civil society organisations and institutions.

“There must be a democratic alternative for the people of Iraq. A lesson from past military intervention is that attention must also be paid to building inclusive democratic institutions that recognise and respect the voices of ordinary people and the organisations which represent them, including trade unions.

“The NASUWT looks to all political parties to identify what is needed beyond military intervention, to recognise the vital contribution of teachers and educators and of trade unions in helping to build lasting peace for the people of Iraq.”

Abdullah Muhsin said:

“Schools are now being used as makeshift shelters to house the thousands of people fleeing the advance of the extremists.

“In ISIS controlled areas, school buildings have been the subject of daily violent attacks or have been taken over by extremists who have imposed a new curriculum based on their rigid interpretation of Islam. Teachers have been forced to flee for their safety. The political and security instability in Iraq has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Lord Ashdown said:
“ISIS forces are not fighting against Western values, but against values which are universal.

“Dropping bombs on Iraq will be ineffective if it is not combined with a wider diplomatic strategy.

“We must start now. I am reminded of the Mao Tse Tung story when he started a 10,000 mile march and someone came up to him and said; “but it’s 10,000 miles” and he replied, “yes, that’s why I’ve got to start this afternoon”. Until we start working now on building an Islam-led, cross Arab Coalition in which the West acts as enablers, then ISIS will continue to march on.”