Search magnifier
Clearing 2017: Apply now

Untold story of Chichester fund which safeguarded Iraqi academic from terrorism

Dr Waleed Al-Bazoon

The story of a little-known scholarship established by the University to help students in time of crisis is somewhat unfamiliar across Chichester but it is one which, for several years, safeguarded an academic and his family who lived with constant threats of violence.

This, the history of the Chaplain’s Welfare Fund, details the efforts of a scheme which pledges support for those in need but has gradually diminished, says Chaplain Reverend John Dane, pictured above left.

“When I started at the University the Fund was around £4,500 – money that had been donated from service collections – but that figure has slowly ebbed away,” he adds. “It is topped-up by the generous support of the Bishop Otter Guild, who donate half of the collection from their service in the Chapel each year, but it still needs continual support from our community.”

The Fund has, since its inception, benefitted nearby community projects but among its most significant contributions in the last decade was to Dr Waleed Al-Bazoon: an Iraqi academic who was employed as an interpreter by the British Armed Forces during the 2003 conflict. It was, however, following the withdrawal of the military several years later that he started to receive death threats from insurgents operating in his home town of Basra.

Dr Waleed Al-Bazoon was employed as an interpreter by the British Armed Forces

“Waleed was a distinguished academic at the University of Basrah and advocate of broadening education throughout Iraq,” explains Rev Dane. “After receiving threats of violence he was offered the opportunity to leave the country and complete his PhD by CARA [the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics] at Chichester in 2009. That was around the time I started and, on the Friday evening he arrived, he came to me asking for my help.”

Fearing for their safety Dr Al-Bazoon had also brought his family to Chichester, but the scholarship for his PhD – which specialised in English Literature to address terrorism and its effect on Iraq – was only for himself. Unable to afford the support of his family from his small grant, he turned for help to Rev Dane, who was able to use the Fund at his discretion.

“I couldn’t call for assistance as I didn’t have anyone’s phone number having been at the University for just a week or two,” he adds. “I managed to track down our Accommodation Office and we used the Fund to support Waleed, his wife, and their four children while he was studying.”

Dr Waleed Al-Bazoon with Professor Behagg in Feb 2014After several years at Chichester Dr Al-Bazoon published his critically-acclaimed work – a collection of poems entitled The War on Idigna – which expressed his views on the outcome of the Iraq conflict. It was subsequently shortlisted at the National Poetry Anthology awards in 2010.

Speaking of his collection, Dr Al-Bazoon says: “My aim is to acquaint Western readers with the disaster of the war in a poetic language, written in English by an Iraqi. Most of the fiction and poetry and drama written on that topic are either in Arabic or translated into English and other languages whereas I wanted to communicate directly about the pains, destruction, and the disaster of the war.”

The extraordinary story of Dr Al-Bazoon does not, however, conclude with his return to Basra in 2014. In spite of the growing educational sector within Iraq, he continues to receive threats to his life, and the University has subsequently devised a plan to offer Waleed a Visiting Scholar award, according to Rev Dane. This is being supported by the University, the Chaplain’s Welfare Fund, and the Institute of International Education’s Scholars Relief Fund.

“The Chaplain’s Welfare Fund is there to support students in need and Waleed is an important example of the significant influence it can have on someone’s life,” he adds. “Of course the Fund is also used to support projects across our University community for students who are unable to finance their own charitable events or fundraising initiatives.”

The schemes to which Rev Dane refers have recently included part-funding students of St Pancras Church in Chichester to travel to Kenya and Cameroon to help people living in poverty. The idea, he says, is not necessarily to finance their trip but instead to subsidise their fundraising events to raise the necessary revenue.

He adds: “The University also wants to use the Fund to develop projects throughout our community. We were recently able to bring poet Dean Atta to Chichester to recite his work at our art installation [re]locate which explored the murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence. These fantastic opportunities can only be achieved if the Fund is sustained and so I implore anyone to give a donation – no matter how small – so that we can continue to support our community, our charity projects, and of course our students.”

For more about the Chaplain’s Welfare Fund visit alumni.chi.ac.uk. Alternatively contact Chaplain Reverend John Dane on 01243 816 041 or email j.dane@chi.ac.uk.

Rev John Dane with Dr Waleed Al-Bazoon and Vice-Chancellor Prof Clive Behagg