2018 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Middle East and North Africa--Facilitating Access to Education in Iraq

Bureau of Political-Military Affairs

In December 2015, seven months after ISIS first entered the city, Iraqi Security Forces recaptured Ramadi with support from Coalition Forces, rescuing civilians along the way and bringing hope to a long-suffering region. During the occupation, ISIS seeded homes and critical infrastructure with IEDs in order to deter the return of displaced populations and perpetuate its reign of terror. ISIS used Ramadi’s Al Anbar University as a headquarters during its occupation, covering the entire facility with IEDs and destroying numerous buildings after they began to lose control of the city.

Date: 2018 Description: An ERW education area at Al Anbar University. © Photo courtesy of Janus Global Operations

In July 2016, Janus Global Operations first entered Al Anbar University to conduct an initial clearance assessment. There, a sparse teaching staff was delivering courses to a small group of students who had braved the constant threat of explosive hazards to pursue an education. Students and educators continued to walk within meters of active IEDs and other explosive hazards on their way to and from classes even after an accidental explosion killed one student and injured three others.

Over the next year, Janus and its local partner Al-Fahad worked tirelessly to clear over 300 IEDs and more than 700 other explosive hazards from 1.5 million square meters (371 acres) of land and buildings at Al Anbar University. Clearance operations continued until July 2017. Janus and Al-Fahad also deployed MRE techniques by using posters and a safe demonstration area with inert explosive devices to educate students, teachers, and construction and cleanup crews about the risks of IEDs, UXO, and other explosive hazards.

Six months after the completion of clearance operations, the university had grown to over 20,000 students, with 1,900 teaching staff and employees. Fifteen out of the 27 reconstruction and building projects requiring clearance after Ramadi’s liberation are completed. U.S.-funded clearance operations in Iraq, including that of Al Anbar University, play a critical role in facilitating access to education and supporting the broader stabilization process as the Iraqi people recover from the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS. The dedication and tenacity of the students and faculty of Al Anbar University are a testament to the unrelenting strength and perseverance of the Iraqi people.