Monthly Archives: August 2013

Images of Iraq: Shingilbana


A gondola to the Korek Mountain Resort in Ruwanduz in the Shingilbana area of northern Iraq. The gondola was constructed in 2011 (Photo credit: Beth Kangas, 2013)


A view of the mountains surrounding the Shingilbana area in northern Iraq (Photo credit: Beth Kangas, 2013)

An Update from Mark Altaweel (2005 US TAARII Fellow)

2005:  Development of Ancient Settlements in Northern Iraq

I had received funds from TAARII to conduct an archaeological documentation project with Iraqi scholars in 2005. This project was highly successful in that it not only produced some valuable results that resulted in two academic articles and helped publish my book (entitled:  The Imperial Landscape of Ashur: Settlement and Land Use in the Assyrian Heartland), it also resulted in several other funded projects I went on doing in cooperation with Professor McGuire Gibson and Iraqi scholars from different regions of Iraq. These resulted in other publications and I continue to receive requests to assist Iraqi scholars with publication and Western scholars have greatly benefited from this as well.

What was great about TAARII’s support is that it assisted Iraqi scholars to share their data and allowed us to have close cooperation between Western researchers and Iraqis during a very difficult time after the 2003 war. The TAARII grant also assisted effort in training some Iraqi colleagues on the use of GPS and satellite imagery, as I was able to demonstrate these approaches while working in Jordan in 2005 and 2006. I think in terms of impact, both scholarly and practically in helping Iraqi archaeology, the relatively small TAARII grant has delivered well above one would expect and has continued to benefit my research in leading to even larger grants and assistance to more Iraqi colleagues. Just recently I had mentored an Iraqi colleague to publish in a Western journal their archaeological results. This experience was based on this initial funding I had received from TAARII.

The following publications have benefited from this fellowship:

Altaweel, M. 2006. “Excavations in Iraq:  The Ray Jazirah Project, First Report.” Iraq 68: 155–81.

Altaweel, M. 2007. “Excavations in Iraq: The Jazirah Salvage Project, Second Report.” Iraq  69: 117–44.

Altaweel, M. 2008. The Imperial Landscape of Ashur: Settlement and Land Use in the Assyrian Heartland. Heidelberg: OrientVerlag.

Image of inscribed baked brick pavement from an official building at Khirbet al-Bughala (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)

Image of inscribed baked brick pavement from an official building at Khirbet al-Bughala (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)

Image of a relatively well-preserved Ubaid building from Khirbet al-Akhwein 1 (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)

Image of a relatively well-preserved Ubaid building from Khirbet al-Akhwein 1 (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)

Ubaid pottery from Khirbet al-Akhwein 1 (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)

Ubaid pottery from Khirbet al-Akhwein 1 (Photo credit: Mark Altaweel)


Middle East Studies Center’s Lecture Series Podcast

TAARII’s Institutional Member, Portland State University, announces the availability of the following Iraqi studies-related episodes of the Middle East Studies Center’s Lecture Series Podcast, which features audio recordings from the series; additional information and links to downloads are available on the Center’s website (

  • The Iraqi Refugee Experience (Thursday, February 9, 2012), a talk by Baher Bhutti that focused on displacement and the psychological and socioeconomic conditions that influence the transition of Iraqi refugees in Portland, OR
  • The Withdrawal of U.S. Military Forces from Iraq (Thursday, February 23, 2012), a talk by Steve Niva, member of the faculty, the Evergreen State College
  • Modern Art in Iraq: From the Pioneers of the 1930s to the Looting of 2003 (Monday, February 27, 2012), a talk by Salam Atta Sabri, Iraqi artist and the founder and Director of the Iraqi Pioneers Committee in Baghdad; co-sponsored with TAARII. For a review of this talk, please see TAARII’s Spring 2012 Newsletter, Issue 07-01 (available as a PDF at

Our Institutional Members: Portland State University

The Middle East Studies Center at Portland State University promotes understanding of the people, cultures, languages and religions of the Middle East. The Center started in 1959 as the first federally supported undergraduate program for Arabic language and Middle East area studies in the nation and is now designated as a National Resource Center for Middle East Studies under the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI program.

The Center’s distinguished faculty includes Assistant Professor of Arabic Language and Literature, Yasmeen Hanoosh, whose work is unified by the theme of Iraqi modernity. Hanoosh’s current book project engages Iraqi literary history and underscores the significance of the literary history and political and intellectual interplay between cosmopolitan centers such as Baghdad and Basra and the marginalized production of non-official culture in the provincial peripheries.

As Hanoosh fosters her own analysis of Iraqi literature and culture, she also promotes awareness of Iraq and its literary output internationally through translation. In addition to publishing stories periodically in prestigious and widely read literary journals, she has made a personal commitment to translate and disseminate significant works of contemporary Iraqi fiction; of these are Luay Hamza Abbas’ collection of short stories, Closing His Eyes, and Murtedha Gzar’s Al-Sayyid Asghar Akbar.

While cultivating her passion for literature through scholarship and translation, Hanoosh also bears in mind the harsh realities of post-invasion Iraq through ethnographic work with U.S.-based Iraqi refugee and immigrant communities, by organizing relevant public and scholarly events, and by fostering constructive liaisons between her students and the local Iraqi refugee community.

More information about the Middle East Studies Center is available at

U.S.-Iraq Higher Education Conference

On June 25, 2013, the Iraqi Cultural Center in Washington hosted an all-day conference in which about a hundred representatives of American universities and colleges met with Iraqi officials discussed the current state and future plans for educating Iraqi students in America. The Iraqi government has earmarked ten billion dollars for the training of its students in foreign countries, including the U.S., and many American institutions have already been taking part for several years. Three Iraqi entities are involved in administration of the program: the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, The Higher Committee for Education Development in Iraq (HCED), and the Kurdistan Regional Government Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Representatives of each of these entities addressed the group. The U.S. State Department is co-operating with the Iraqis to make the program a success and has appointed Lorna Middlebrough to the post of Education Specialist for Iraq, an unprecedented position.

The Iraqi government and the Kurdish Regional Government are furnishing multi-year fellowships that include all tuition, housing, family support, and other aspects that will ensure the success of the students in studying abroad. The funding is for masters’ degrees as well as for doctorates, and the length of support is geared to five years, but it was also indicated that for specific students in certain fields, there could be an extension of the time.

It became clear that the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education is mainly focused on science, technology, engineering, and medicine (STEM), which have traditionally been the strongest areas in Iraqi higher education. But there is a stated interest in other disciplines.

The Higher Committee for Education Development is also interested in STEM, but is also committed to sending students for training in other fields, including social sciences and humanities.

The Kurdish Regional Government, according to its representative, was open to any field of study, and stressed the support in the humanities, although, again, most of the fellowships have been and will probably remain in STEM.

After presentations by the Iraqis and State Department participants, the meeting then heard from American university administrators and faculty with successful and growing programs for Iraqi students at their institutions. Members of the audience added instances of good practice in dealing with Iraqi students at their campuses. Both the Americans and the Iraqis stressed the need for conditional admissions so that the students could come for up to a year of English language training (ESL).

English has been taught in Iraqi schools from grade school up, but the deterioration of the educational system, beginning with the Iran-Iraq War and exacerbated by the Sanctions of the 1990s, has resulted in a generation with a much lower grasp of the language. Certain fields, such as medicine and the sciences, have lectures and texts in English, so there is for them less need for ESL courses before entering American academic programs. But the great majority of Iraqi students are not able to pass TOEFL at a high enough level to be admitted without ESL. Up to now, the great majority of U.S. institutions taking Iraqi students are state schools, and the programs tend to be in STEM.

TAARII’s institutional members should think very seriously about getting involved in the Iraqi fellowship program. These students will be Iraq’s future faculty, university administrators and government officials in Iraq. Anyone who did research in Iraq during the past fifty years knows how essential it was to have a fellow alumnus, a former student, or a colleague from an exchange program to vouch for the person doing the research and the value of the work itself. Much of the finest research has been done with Iraqi colleagues. With the funding from the Iraqi side, the real investment for American institutions and faculty is in time and attention.

But not all universities are willing to give a conditional admission, and partially for this reason, only a few of TAARII’s institutional members are participating in the training of Iraqis, and that is usually for sciences. Rutgers has more than sixty Iraqis enrolled at this time, and Georgetown has begun to accept them. The University of Chicago medical school, after a lot of groundwork, has agreed to bring Iraqi doctors for short refresher programs in cardiology. But what about the humanities and social sciences? Many Iraqis are going for training in these fields to Europe, especially Britain. But Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and the other universities with strong programs in Mesopotamian studies ought to be taking a leading role in the education of Iraqi archaeologists, art historians, and cuneiform scholars. But first, conditional admission and a realistic attitude to the GRE must be worked out, and it should be done quickly.