Iraqi politicians awarded 'degrees' by unrecognised university

Iraq's former interior minister Araji at his 'degree' ceremony

Two Iraqi politicians have been awarded bogus degrees by a self-proclaimed university in Denmark, it has emerged.

● Former interior minister Qasim al-Araji received a worthless MA certificate from the unrecognised Aalborg Academy of Science in February 2019.

● Ahmad al-Ubaidi, the current minister of youth and sports, received a doctorate from the same organisation in December 2018.

The Aalborg Academy in Frederikshavn purports to be a university though under Danish law it is not allowed to include the word "university" in its name. It has no physical campus and is owned by a company originally registered as a pizza restaurant business.

The academy has a lot of Iraqi connections and at the time of the awards to politicians it was lobbying for official recognition from Iraq's ministry of higher education. It had two meetings with the ministry in 2018 and a further one in March 2019. On that occasion, according to the academy, the minister promised to assist with providing accreditation in Iraq.

Degrees of deception: how fake universities target the Middle East

So far, the accreditation doesn't appear to have been forthcoming but the academy says it has secured "cooperation" agreements with three recognised universities in Iraq: the University of Baghdad, the University of Babylon and Al-Mustansiriya University.

The academy has also been opening "branches" in Iraq. These appear to use different names but offer the academy's degrees to their customers.

A photo on Aalborg's website shows a sign above a doorway. Aalborg's logo is in the top left corner.

The sign reads:

The High Academy
For Scientific and Humanitarian Studies
Master's and Doctorate
In participation with the Aalborg Academy of Science in Denmark

Dispute over Saddam's doctor

Meanwhile, there's a bizarre dispute over the alleged involvement of Saddam Hussein's former doctor in Aalborg's activities. The academy publishes a medical journal and claims on its website that the editorial director is Dr Ala Hussein Bashir who for many years was one of the Iraqi dictator's personal physicians.

The website has a photo of Dr Bashir with an email address. When contacted by at the given email address earlier this month, Dr Bashir denied involvement with Aalborg and suggested it was a case of mistaken identity.

On Saturday, however, a statement circulated in the name of Jia Abd al-Karim Zangana – described as the director of Aalborg's legal department – insisted that Dr Bashir is the journal's "general supervisor".

Dr Bashir shaking hands with Saddam Hussein