On Saturday, June 7, 2014, armed militants stormed Anbar University in Ramadi, Iraq, reportedly killing three security guards stationed at the campus entrance. They then moved on to the campus, blew up a bridge that led to the university’s gates, and seized a dormitory. There, they reportedly identified themselves as members of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) — an al Qaeda splinter organization — and instructed several students to remain in their rooms, while taking several dozen others hostage. The incident occurred during a period of increased sectarian violence between armed groups within Iraq’s Sunni minority and Shia majority communities. The ISIS is a Sunni group with a history of violent attacks against Shiite Muslims.
The incident ended and the students were released after a few hours, when Iraqi security forces staged a counterattack and forced the militants to withdraw from campus. Ultimately, no students were injured.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent attacks on university campuses. Such attacks threaten the lives and well-being of members of higher education communities; undermine higher education functions, autonomy and academic freedom; and impair the ability of higher education to serve its public mission. All members of higher education communities, and all members of society, benefit from this mission, and all parties to a conflict have a responsibility to respect the autonomy, safety and security of the higher education space.