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30 students withdraw for attack-related matters

By Jeff Sklar

Thursday September 20, 2001

Most students returning home hail from same country

A total of 30 UA students have dropped their classes to return home as a result of after-effects of the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, university officials said.

Twenty-six of these students, from the United Arab Emirates - a Middle Eastern nation of nearly 3 million people - have withdrawn from the university to return to their home country, said university spokeswoman Sharon Kha.

The official religion of the UAE is Islam, the same faith practiced by the United States' prime suspects in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. However, experts have reported that the attackers were likely members of an extreme faction of the faith, not mainstream Muslims.

One student from Pakistan also withdrew, as did two U.S. citizens with close family ties to the attack. Another student, who expects to be called into National Guard duty, withdrew as well.

"(There are) a variety of students that have a variety of reasons," Kha said. "Those who decided (to leave) met with (university President Peter Likins) and the dean of students and worked out the best and least stressful way to withdraw."

Fifty-eight students from the UAE were enrolled at the University of Arizona when final enrollment figures were released early last week, said Rick Kroc, director of the Office of Curricular and Enrollment Research. With the recent wave of withdrawals, however, that number has been cut nearly in half.

The UAE is not officially advising their approximately 3,000 government-sponsored students in the United States to return home, said Avdulla Alsaboosi, a diplomat at the UAE Embassy in Washington D.C.

Rather, they are advising students to assess their own particular situations, and make decisions based on what they think is best.

"If they feel that there is a danger on their lives·then they can go home," Alsaboosi said. "If they don't feel comfortable, they can't study."

He said that very few of the UAE students in the United States have returned home, and that the high percentage of UA students withdrawing may be related to Saturday's murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station owner in Mesa. His friends allege he was shot for looking Arab and wearing a turban.

David Dunford, a UA political science professor and former U.S. ambassador to Oman, said the students might be withdrawing because their families are reading in their local newspapers reports of the backlash against Muslims.

"It's unfortunate," he said. "It's a peaceful country. My best bet is that their families have been reading about this back at home."

Kha said that some were also afraid of a backlash after hearing that Hani Hanjour - believed to be the pilot of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon - lived in Tucson and took a course at the UA in 1990.

"After seeing the media reaction to Hanjour, they really feel targeted by the media," Kha said.

University officials said they did not know if the students who are returning home plan to return to the UA next semester, but Alsaboosi was more optimistic.

"I'm sure those people are coming back," he said.

Kha said that all the students left the UA on good terms, and that if their academic records are good, "there's no reason that they shouldn't come back."


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