Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Iraqi exile gives £3m for UK university scholarships

A Jew who fled antisemitism in his native Iraq is now giving something back to his new home - Britain. A gift of £3 million will fund the Eliahou Dangoor scholarships for needy students at the best universities, The Times reports (with thanks: Lily, Ivy):

When he fled Iraq and arrived in Britain as a refugee in the 1960s, Naim Dangoor had to abandon his lucrative business empire and comfortable lifestyle in Baghdad and start again from scratch.

Now aged 95, and the wealthy head of a successful property investment company, Dr Dangoor is giving something back by donating £3 million in scholarships, so bright teenagers from poor families can go to university.

It is a debt of gratitude to the country where he was educated in 1930s, and returned to raise his family. Dr Dangoor was forced to leave Iraq because of anti-Semitic persecution after the revolution, and was awarded an OBE in 2006 because of his services to the Jewish community in London, to which he belongs.

His donation is worth £4 million with matched funding from the Government. This will pay for bursaries of £1,000, for 4,000 students from deprived backgrounds who are the first in their families to study at university.

It will be announced tomorrow by the Russell Group and 1994 Group, who together make up almost 40 leading universities including Oxford and Cambridge, and will give out the scholarships.

They have come under pressure from ministers in recent years to take on more students from under-privileged areas and become less exclusive.

Dr Dangoor, who married a former Miss Baghdad and went on to have four sons, has named the scholarships after his father Eliahou Dangoor.

Renee (Mrs Naim) Dangoor: Miss Baghdad (Photo: The Scribe)

It is not the first time he has made such a donation; when he gave £1 million to universities in 2005, he said: “I promised myself that, if I was ever able to help a British university student, I would, to assist the native people of the country that welcomed me. But I never dreamt I would be able to make such a big contribution.” Now he has trebled that amount.

Dr Dangoor’s son David, who was 10 when the family left Iraq, has organised the latest donation on his father’s behalf. He told The Times: “When my father was 17 he came to the UK for three years to study engineering at the University of London — at a time when you had to spend five days coming here by road and boat from what was then Palestine.

“He went back to Baghdad afterwards to help build bridges, some of which were destroyed in 2003 [after the invasion]. While here, he felt he had a special boost to his education and that, if he was able to, one day he’d like repay the debt.

“My father went into business in Iraq and was quite successful. He built a furniture factory and a match factory. He had a property development company and the Coca-Cola franchise.

“In the early 1950s, after the creation of Israel, most of the Jews left Iraq — whereas in 1917 the population of Baghdad had been 40 per cent Jewish.

“Those who had businesses tried to stay behind, and my father was one of those. But things became difficult after the revolution in 1958 when the king was killed and the Baath Party came to power.

“He brought his family to the UK in the 1960s and we were very lucky to be accepted. I had my primary education in Baghdad and my secondary education in Britain.

“He had to start more or less from scratch as he was not allowed to take money out of Iraq. My father chose his liberty over his assets, and gave it all up. He was almost 50 when he came to the UK. Over the years he built up a property development business and was ultimately successful.” Dr Dangoor came to Britain at the same time as other Iraqi Jews, including the families of the Saatchi brothers and Alan Yentob, his son said.

Read article in full

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this article. I live in west London, right near a building called the Naim Dangoor Centre, which houses a new city academy educating some of the poorest children in the borough. I had no idea that it was named after a distinguished Jewish person!