Sunday, June 17, 2007

Perspective: Taking finals to the sound of gunfire

Above: A soldier with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team patrols at a school in Baqubah in April.

Heads bent over final exam papers, the students were impossibly jammed together at wooden desks and sofas in one of the few classrooms safe from the routine gunbattles outside.

Others waited in the cafeteria of the Baqouba Teachers College for their turn when shooting broke out about 100 meters (yards) away.

The young men and women dove to the floor to avoid stray bullets, and only climbed back to their chairs to continue writing five minutes later when the shooting stopped.

A few kilometers (miles) away, the College of Law stood empty after warnings by al-Qaida-linked militants and a series of attacks caused students to flee.

"This law is of the infidels," said militant graffiti on the walls.

Six guards sharing two rifles said they were afraid to wipe off the slogans.

"If we did that, we would lose our heads," said one, who refused to give his name because he feared he would be targeted.

Such is the life of university students in Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune