ISIS occupied the Iraqi city of Ramadi for seven months before it was liberated in late December 2015. During this period ISIS seeded homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to perpetuate its reign of terror, hinder stabilization efforts, and deter the return of displaced populations. In particular, ISIS used Ramadi's Al Anbar University as its headquarters during the occupation and then littered the entire facility with IEDs and other explosive hazards after they recognized that they would lose control of the city. They also destroyed numerous buildings at the University and across Ramadi before departing the city to further obstruct reconstruction efforts.
When U.S.-funded partner Janus Global Operations first entered Al Anbar University in July 2016, a depleted teaching staff were delivering courses to a small group of students who braved the constant threat of IEDs and other explosive hazards to invest in education. Students and educators were forced to walk within meters of active IEDs and other explosive hazards on their way to and from class, even after an accidental explosion killed one student and injured three others.
Over the course of the next year, Janus and its local partner Al-Fahad worked tirelessly to clear more than 300 IEDs and 700 other explosive hazards from 1.5 million square meters of land and buildings on the Al Anbar University campus. Janus and Al Fahad also created mine risk education posters and constructed a demonstration area to educate students and teachers as well as the construction and cleanup crews about the risks posed by IEDs, unexploded ordnance, and other explosive hazards.
Six months after the completion of clearance operations in July 2017, the University had over 20,000 students and employed over 1,900 teachers and staff. Al Anbar University is only one of numerous priority reconstruction and building projects that were identified as critical after Ramadi’s liberation, and which have now been cleared of deadly explosive hazards. These U.S.-funded clearance operations have played a crucial role in facilitating access to education and supporting the broader normalization process as the Iraqi people recover from the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS. The dedication and tenacity of the students and faculty of Al Anbar University are a testament to the unrelenting spirit, strength, and perseverance of the Iraqi people.
About the Author: Solomon Black is the program manager for Iraq in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs' Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.