Date posted: October 24, 2008
YUSUF ACAR, ARBIL
As relations normalize between Turkey and the Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq, Turkey has followed in the footsteps of the US, France and Lebanon in establishing a university there.
Diplomatic relations between Ankara and Arbil, the capital of the northern Iraqi administration, were almost frozen after the foundation of the regional Kurdish government there and Massoud Barzani’s election as its president. Recently the relations have seen a period of thaw, and some of the walls between the two parties have been brought down, Barzani explained yesterday after his meeting with Turkey’s special envoy to Iraq, Murat Özçelik. Ankara emphasizes the importance of “silent diplomacy” with the Kurdish administration in this regard.
Along with the breaking down of walls has come the building of bridges between Turkey and its northern Iraqi neighbors. Ishik University, newly opened by the Turkish Fezalar Educational Co. in Arbil, is one of those bridges. Fezalar has been active in education in the region for 14 years and has 10 schools in Arbil, Sulaimaniya and Kirkuk. The university is now accepting student registration, and classes will begin in mid-November.
The idea to open a university came from the families of students who had attended other Fezalar schools, said Talip Büyük, the corporation’s general manager, at a press conference on Tuesday in Arbil. “We have had 788 students graduate from our schools, and for a few years the families have been strongly encouraging us to open a university,” he added. Eventually Fezalar decided to raise the topic with the Kurdish administration’s education officials, who backed the proposal. During the press conference Büyük spoke of the success of the Fezalar schools and noted that Fezalar students won medals at several international intramural scientific competitions.
Local Kurdish media showed great interest during the press conference and in particular asked whether the university’s opening would contribute to improving relations with Turkey. In response, Büyük emphasized that the institution’s aim was to focus on scientific educational and success. His words were echoed by Professor Salih Hoşoğlu, chosen to be the university rector, who said that their main mission was to educate students at world standards.
“We are pleased with the success of all Fezalar schools and believe that Ishik University will also be successful,” said Himdad A. Muhammad, the Kurdish regional administration’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research director of private education. As for relations with Turkey, he said: “These are political issues and we are dealing with scientific studies and education. But we are happy with the latest developments. We hope the opening of this university will contribute to the improvement of relations.”
University to open with four departments
The university will have four departments: dentistry, engineering, economics, and administrative sciences and education. Rector Hoşoğlu explained that there would be English preparatory classes to fulfill the requirement that foreign universities in northern Iraq offer education in English. “Demand from students to enroll at Ishik is high, and we need to open evening programs to meet it,” Büyük said, mentioning also that the university would only be accepting students with the highest scores on the ministerial higher education entrance exam.
Source: Today’s Zaman 22 October 2008