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'Donkey' Remark Lands Iraqi Education Official In Hot Water

Iraqi teachers and local officials are up in arms over a derogatory comment by a senior education ministry official describing members of the teaching community as mostly jackasses, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.

Apparently unaware the microphone was on, Deputy Minister of Education Ali al-Ibrahimi was caught on videotape telling other officials that "three quarters of all teachers are donkeys."

Nasser al-Kaabi, a member of the board of the Iraqi teachers' union, told RFI that teachers are demanding al-Ibrahimi's immediate dismissal, together with those officials who agreed with his "highly offensive" statement during the meeting.

Al-Kaabi stressed that "this demand brooks no delay, otherwise teachers will take to the streets, thus further stoking public protests." The teachers are also demanding that al-Ibrahimi appear on TV after his dismissal to apologize publicly for the distress caused by his remarks.

The chairman of the Baghdad provincial council education committee, Falah al-Qaissi, told RFI that the local Baghdad government backs the teachers' union in their demand.

Al-Qaissi said the deputy minister's remarks were unacceptable, and that al-Ibrahimi seems to have forgotten that he owes his position to the people he insulted.

He added that as the Baghdad provincial council is not empowered to discipline al-Ibrahimi, it will ask the minister of education to fire him.

Al-Ibrahimi, in comments to RFI, expressed "my deepest regret to teachers" for his unfortunate comment. He added that "no one is infallible."

He said the matter is now before a court as a libel case and that the timing of the release of the videotape was "politically motivated."