Close call for an Iraqi friend

Posted by David Eicher
on Saturday, October 7, 2006
In the December 2004 Astronomy, then-Assistant Editor Matt Quandt profiled Raad Ali Abdulaziz, an Iraqi amateur astronomer, engineer, and humanitarian. Just as the story was getting ready to go to press, our whole staff experienced a chilling morning when we learned that Raad, along with three other aid workers, was kidnapped in Baghdad by Islamic extremists. Just before the issue went to press, we suddenly learned the drama concluded well, with the group, Raad included, being released unharmed.
Now Raad’s story has appeared in the October 1, 2006, edition of The New York Times Magazine. Under the title “The Rebuilder’s Tale,” the story of Raad’s captivity makes a stark and frightening read. “Things looked very bad,” wrote Raad. Asked if he was Sunni or Shiite, he replied he was a Muslim who didn’t believe in breaking up Islam that way. On his escape, predicated by a secret deal with the Italian Red Cross, Raad finally saw freedom, only to conclude, “This cannot be God’s way.” I encourage you to read the whole story at
Remarking on the story, Dr. Omar al-Forouk al-Damluji, one of Raad’s professors at the University of Baghdad and later Minister of Housing and Reconstruction in Iraq, commented on Raad’s exodus to safety in Europe. “His departure signifies an epitome of the continuous brain drain from Iraq,” he says. “May we all hope that security finds its way back to our beloved homeland Iraq and see all fine people like Dr. Raad and others come and join the true efforts of rebuilding the nation on an ethical and solid platform. This will never realize without the solidarity of the Iraqi people and the will to shape a workable political system that can convince Iraqis.”
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