May 13, 2010
On leave from the violence in Iraq, Dr. Salam Bash Al-Maliky is an eyewitness to the struggles of his country.
Dr. Al-Maliky, an associate professor in the Department of Engineering and the Global Leadership Center’s leader in residence, will hold a forum about elections in Iraq and other Arab nations at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 14, at Walter Hall Room 145. It will be followed by a presentation on the crisis of depleted uranium.
“Arab countries are used to military coups and more revolutions than elections,” said Dr. Al-Maliky. “The common practice is having one-man leadership. It’s not because they believe in it, but that’s what’s common, what’s happening around us. That's what makes Arab countries feel highly cautious about the Iraqi elections.”
Iraq’s parliamentary elections were held on March 7. Election Day was marked by insurgent attacks that killed 38 people, but voter turnout still reached 62 percent, according to a March 9 BBC article.
Dr. Al-Maliky left Iraq with his wife and sons in 2009, accepting an offer through the Institute of International Education's Scholar Rescue Fund, which provides fellowships for endangered scholars to continue their studies in safer countries.
Dr. Al-Maliky was previously a faculty member at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad. Since 2007, according to a New York Times article dated Oct. 19, 2009, bombings at the university have killed or maimed more than 335 students and staff members, and a 12-foot-high blast wall has been built around the campus. Many Iraqi academics, including Dr. Al-Maliky’s former dean, have been kidnapped and killed.
Dr. Al-Maliky's areas of expertise include industrial wastewater treatment, air pollution and nuclear radiation. At Ohio University’s GLC, he is leading a comprehensive study of depleted uranium in Iraq. This high-density metal is a byproduct of nuclear energy production and has been used in shielding and munitions in U.S. military actions since the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Dr. Al-Maliky said.
“Iraqis are living, eating, and drinking all day from a very highly contaminated environment,” he said. “They cannot just abandon their homes, and it is not just an Iraqi issue since it covers the Gulf, Iran, even India. So it’s a very huge issue to study.”
The contaminant has been linked to birth defects and cancer. Although occasionally a talking point of Iraqi officials, Dr. Al-Maliky said the problem is largely neglected, especially during elections.
“I call it a silent ghost. It can cover continents without being noticed, and it’s still radioactive,” he said. “We are trying to find what kind of measures that international experience has had to help Iraqis get rid of or at least control the bad consequences of this crisis.”
His year in the U.S. is coming to an end, but Dr. Al-Maliky is making arrangements to extend his studies to better connect OHIO with Iraqi institutes, he says.
“One of my goals is to live in this environment and express what I know to my students and colleagues in Iraq,” said Dr. Al-Maliky. “The intention of mine is to go as deep as I can. One academic year is not enough.”