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Professor's 'Books for Baghdad' in National Spotlight

Dr. Kelly Greg, Dr. Jeff Dodd and Dr. Safaa Al-Hamdani, left to right,are shown with stacks of boxed books waiting to be shipped to Iraq. Dr. Al-Hamdani, an Iraqi-born American citizen, is heading up an effort with other JSU faculty members to collect textbooks that will be sent to Baghdad University.

By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau

June 28, 2004 A project started by Jacksonville State University's Dr. Safaa Al-Hamdani to collect textbooks for Baghdad University has attracted the attention of National Public Radio, NBC, FOX, ABC, the Associated Press and other media outlets.

Professors from universities throughout the state are donating surplus books and offering other help.

Dr. Safaa Al-Hamdani, an Iraq native and 1977 graduate of Baghdad University, said he conceived the idea in April. Since then, he and JSU colleagues have collected more than 700 books or pledges for books and are working on the logistics of mailing them.

"I thought we could collect a few books from a few close friends. I did not expect the response to be so overwhelming," said Dr. Al-Hamdani.

Among JSU faculty helping with the project are Dr. Bill Hugg, past president of the JSU Faculty Senate; Dr. Jeff Dodd, current president of the Faculty Senate; Dr. Scott Beckett, instructor of learning services; Dr. Kelly Gregg, associate professor of geography and anthropology; Dr. Rebecca Turner, vice president of academic affairs; and many others.

"Like everyone in the country the faculty has concerns about the situation in Iraq. As soon as we heard about Professor Al-Hamdani's idea we realized this was a very positive thing," said Dr. Gregg.

Dr. Turner encouraged Dr. Al-Hamdani to initiate a permanent relationship with Baghdad University.

"This interest makes me feel wonderful," said Dr. Hamdani, who graduated from Baghdad University two years before Saddam Hussein gained power.

Under Hussein, universities suffered. Sanctions hurt Iraq's education system because limits were put on incoming textbooks. Dr. Al-Hamdani left Iraq in 1979 when the political climate situation worsened. In conflicts within the past year, many of Iraq's libraries were burned.

"Our sending books over there has potential for a huge impact," said Dr. Gregg, who is on the committee for collecting and sending the books. "This will show people there that we in the United States have their best interests in mind."

Dr. Al-Hamdani has similar hopes. He remembers when Baghdad University was a leading institution in the Middle East.

A Jacksonville resident, Dr. Al-Hamdani is a US citizen and married to an American. They have three children.

"My goal for now is to help in stocking up the library at Baghdad University, and I appreciate any involvement, whether it is through the contribution of books or funds," he said.

Books or checks made payable to Books for Baghdad may be sent to Dr. Al-Hamdani in care of the Department of Biology, Jacksonville State University, 700 Pelham Road North, Jacksonville, AL 36265.

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