Baghdad College

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Baghdad College
Motto An Iraqi School for Iraqi Boys
Established 1932; 85 years ago (1932)
Religious affiliation
originally Jesuit (Roman Catholic)
Location Baghdad, Iraq

Baghdad College (Arabic: كلية بغداد‎) is an elite high school for boys aged 11 to 18 in Baghdad, Iraq. It was initially a Catholic school founded by and operated by American Jesuits from Boston. The 1969 Iraqi government nationalization and expulsion of Jesuit teachers changed the character of the school. It has been compared in the British media to Eton College[1] and is arguably Iraq's most famous secondary school for boys, having produced an Iraqi Prime Minister, a Deputy Prime Minister, a Vice President, two dollar billionaires and a member of the British House of Lords, amongst many other notable alumni.


Founder Rice & young Jesuits

Baghdad College was founded in 1932[2]: 228 by William A. Rice, S.J.[3] (who would later become Bishop in Belize, Central America).[4] Pope Pius XI requested the establishment of a Catholic school in Baghdad to serve the Muslim population there, and the church sent four Jesuits to establish the school.[5] One of them was Fr. John Mifsud, who was of Maltese origins. The school originally had four Jesuit teachers and 107 students. The school motto was "An Iraqi School for Iraqi Boys".[2]: 228 The school was initially located in ten buildings,[2]: 228 located at 11/45 Murabba'ah Street in Baghdad, on the east bank of the Tigris River, on 4 acres (1.6 ha) of land in the northern part of the city.[5] Father Leo Guay designed the campus buildings, using Iraqi architecture as an influence.[2]:228 Courses were conducted in English. National Public Radio stated that at the time it was Baghdad's "premier high school."[6] Soon after its founding the teaching staff included 33 Jesuits and 31 Iraqi lay teachers.[2]: 228 Some of the Jesuits were fluent in the Arabic language,[2]: 229 and others had established Arabic classes to try to teach themselves the language.[2]: 230 The student body became over 1,100;[2]: 228 Most of the students were children of the Iraqi elite.[7] Historically about 20% of the students received scholarships.[2]: 228 About half of the students were Muslims and half were Christians;[2]: 229 Jews were also students. Baghdad College's pupils included Iraqis, Armenians, Egyptians, Iranians, Palestinians, and Syrians.[2]: 234

The school did not attempt to convert Muslims into Christianity,[5] and students were not required to attend chapel services.[2]: 230 Richard Cushing, a cardinal from Boston, privately criticized the school for not getting converts.[5] Laith Kubba, an Iraqi activist and former student, stated that the school helped him become a better Muslim.[2]: 226

Anthony Shadid, an American, stated in an essay that the school symbolized a secular-at-the-time Iraq, the manner in which the two countries perceived each other, and the notion that the U.S. and Iraq "could allow themselves an almost idealistic version of each other. I think that's impossible today, and I say that with a certain sense of sadness."[6]

During the Baathist Iraq era, students were required to take courses on Saddam Hussein. The classes about Saddam ended after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As of 2005 the school still accepted the top students in Baghdad. Dexter Filkins of The New York Times stated "Today, Baghdad College is becoming more its old self."[7] In 2012 Anthony Shadid stated that the school had experienced "disorderly decline".[2]: 225

The graves of five Americans are located in the school's cemetery. One of them is that of a teacher who was employed by Baghdad College for 35 years.[2]: 227

Notable alumni[edit]



See also[edit]



  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Shadid, Anthony. "The American Age, Iraq". 
  3. ^ Woods, Charles M. Sr.; et al. (2015). Years of Grace: The History of Roman Catholic Evangelization in Belize: 1524-2014. Belize City: Roman Catholic Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan. pp. 222–224. 
  4. ^ Feeny, T.J. (1939). From Boston – a Bishop for Belize. Washington:Jesuit Missions. p. 144f. 
  5. ^ a b c d MacDonnell, Joseph. "The Jesuits of Baghdad: 1932-69" (Archive). America. May 26, 2003. Retrieved on April 29, 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Baghdad College And America's Shifting Role In Iraq" (Archive). National Public Radio. September 7, 2011. Retrieved on April 29, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e Filkns, Dexter, "Boys of Baghdad College Vie for Prime Minister" (Archive). New York Times, December 12, 2005. Retrieved on April 29, 2015.
  8. ^


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°23′6.07″N 44°22′14.28″E / 33.3850194°N 44.3706333°E / 33.3850194; 44.3706333