Iraq Reimposes Freeze on Medical Diplomas In Bid to Keep Doctors From Fleeing Abroad
By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 5, 2007; Page A01
BAGHDAD — Iraq is hemorrhaging doctors as violence racks the nation. To stem the flow, the Iraqi government has recently taken a cue from Saddam Hussein: Medical schools are once again forbidden to issue diplomas and transcripts to new graduates.
Hussein built a fine medical system in part by withholding doctors’ passports and diplomas. Although physicians can work in Iraq with a letter from a medical school verifying their graduation, they say they need certificates and transcripts to work abroad.
It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Electricity in Baghdad was more reliable; sectarian hostility was rare; Iraq was safe — except for the many victims of Hussein’s tyranny. But rarely has the government embraced a policy that so harshly evokes the era of dictatorship. To some students and doctors, the diploma decision, like Iraq’s crumbling medical system, provides clear proof of the government’s helplessness and the nation’s decline.
“I don’t think anybody would think now to go back like it was in Saddam’s time. It would be a scandal,” said an incredulous Akif al-Alousi, a leader of the Iraqi Medical Association, upon hearing about the measure from a reporter. After verifying it, Alousi said that the association would challenge the rule, which he called a violation of “basic rights.”
Noor Jassem, 24, a fifth-year medical student at Mustansiriyah Medical College in Baghdad, agreed.
“They have no right to impose such a restriction,” Jassem said. “If the government cannot provide security for the doctors, then why should it stand in their way to leave?”
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