The IIE Scholar Rescue Fund Aids a Threatened University President

Photo credit: Shelby Kardell, University of Missouri College of Engineering

What would the world be like without Felix Bloch, inventor of the technology behind the MRI? Or Thomas Mann, one of the greatest novelists of all time? Those are just two of the many scholars rescued by IIE during WWII. Unfortunately, long after the last world war ended, there continues to be an urgent need for scholar rescue in a world where violent conflicts rage and academics are still threatened for voicing their ideas. 

Dr. Saba Gheni, the first Iraqi female to be president of an Iraqi university, is one of the more than 600 scholars assisted by IIE’s Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) over the last ten years.  She is one of the more than 3,000 professors who have had to flee Iraq since February 2003.

When Tikrit University was overrun by ISIS forces in 2014, Dr. Saba struggled to keep her campus open and her students and staff safe. She arranged transport out of Tikrit, advised students to conceal their identification, and allowed faculty and their family to take refuge on campus. 

Militants reportedly came to Dr. Saba’s house and arrested her and her mother, but she managed to escape. For two days the university became a battleground. At least 16 faculty members were killed, and Dr. Saba fled to Erbil. 

With IIE-SRF support, Dr. Saba is safely out of Iraq working as an assistant professor and visiting scholar at the University of Missouri, where she researches reactor design and kinetics. She is also teaching undergraduate classes in polymer materials and chemical process safety and professional ethics. Dr. Saba hopes to return to Iraq soon to help rebuild Tikrit University and help her displaced students continue their education.

You can hear Dr. Saba's story in her own words in this interview from the fall of 2015, when she was honored at IIE's annual Gala.