Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Iraqi Brain Drain

From "Cheated of Future, Iraqi Graduates Want to Flee" (NY Times, June 4, 2007):

Four years later, Iraq’s college graduates are ending their studies shattered and eager to leave the country. 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.
I don't blame these students--I imagine in their place, amid rampant violence and with the means of mobility, I would want to leave, too. But, abandoning Iraq will certainly hamper the restitution of peace and prosperity to the nation. Iraq needs, now more than ever, highly educated professionals and academicians to provide strong leadership for stability and growth--leadership both in the government and in the private sector. And yet, as one student put it, "Staying here is like committing suicide."

The students represented by this article aren't the first educated people to leave Iraq--thousands of expatriated Iraqi professionals live and work in Europe and North America. Iraq needs them to come home, but why would they want to leave what is likely a comfortable life in a well-developed nation to embrace fear of violence and political instability? A viable Iraq requires professionals, but the professionals need a safe environment. The Iraq and U.S. governments must make peace and security a top priority in reconstruction, and should institute incentive programs to attract and retain indigenous professionals to flesh out the country's human infrastructure for a stable Iraq in the long term.

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