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Khalid Tariq Al Naib, who was an assistant professor of medical microbiology and vice dean for scientific affairs at the Al Nahrain Medical School in Baghdad, was murdered on 30 March 2007, most likely for sectarian reasons, during the wave of lawlessness and chaos which has engulfed Iraq. He was kidnapped in the front of the gate of the medical school where he worked on the day of his return from a sabbatical in Australia. His body was later found in a street with bullets in his head and marks indicating that he had been beaten brutally.
Khalid was a medical microbiologist and immunologist. His BSc in microbiology in 1987 and his MSc were obtained at the University of Kuwait. His PhD in 2000 from the Al Nahrain Medical School was on the effects intravesical instillation of BCG vaccine on the recurrence of schistosomal and non-schistosomal tumours.
During his academic career he progressed as a researcher and teacher: he loved both. It was not unusual for Khalid to stay in the lab until the small hours of the morning to work on one of his experiments or cultures. It was also known for him to move around the troubled city of Baghdad (with buildings on fire and tanks in the streets) in a taxi with a bunch of immunology and microbiology medical journals in his lap, and actually reading them. He simply loved biological sciences.
He recently established external collaborations to study the possible role of nanobacteria in psoriasis and another project to identify biomarkers that could be applied in the molecular characterisation of bladder tumours.
Khalid also worked with non-governmental organisations. He was a consultant on the medical team of Premier Urgency (PU), a French non-government organisation, for which he wrote various reports about the health status in Iraq on the basis of field visits focusing on the medical and laboratory needs of Iraqi hospitals and public health laboratories. In 2004 he became a member of the medical team at Aide MÃ©dicale Internationale (AMI). His major task was to establish a blood bank in Duhouk (in northern Iraq) as part of a humanitarian programme. In addition to the blood bank, he was involved in other AMI programmes that focused on blood donation campaigns and on the improvement of Iraqi laboratory services for tuberculosis (TB).
In addition to supervising and examining postgraduate students, he taught immunology to undergraduates at the medical and science schools at the Nahrain University.
In the last few months of his life Khalid spent a sabbatical at the translational research laboratory in the research division of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne in Australia. There he became fascinated by the interplay between cancer cells and surrounding inflammatory cells in tumours. He investigated the role of cytokines in supporting the growth of cancer cells that may have led to new treatment approaches for cancer. He was loved and admired by his colleagues in Melbourne. They were aware of the death threats that were sent to his office in Baghdad while he was in Australia. One of Khalid's objectives in going to Australia was to learn about ways of improving scientific training and development in Iraq.
Khalid came from a medical family. His father, the late Professor Tariq Hamdi, was a neurologist who became the dean of the medical schools in Mosul and Baghdad in the 1960s and 1970s respectively. His brother Zead was a professor of urology at the University of Baghdad and now works as a urologist in Bahrain. Many other members of Khalid's family are doctors.
Khalid was soft was spoken and cultured. He respected and saw the best in others. Khalid had a love of classical music, some of his enjoyment of music coming through listening to short wave radio. He was an impossible person not to like. His friends, students, and colleagues around the world are stunned in disbelief about his murder: how can anyone, no matter how evil, kill such a mild, handsome, cultured, and civilised scholar who still had much to give to the world and to the sad and debilitated people of Iraq?
Khalid is survived by his wife, Dr Manal al Musawi, also a microbiologist at the Al Nahrain Medical School, and Tariq, his 4 month old son, whom he saw once.
Assistant professor of medical microbiology and vice dean for scientific affairs Al Nahrain Medical School, Baghdad (b Baghdad 1 January 1963; q BSc Kuwait 1987; MSc, PhD), murdered in Iraq on 30 March 2007.