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Hussain Ibrahim Saleh al-Shahristani (born 1942) is an Iraqi politician who served in different cabinet posts. He is Former Iraq's Minister of Higher Education.

Hussain Al-Shahristani
حسين الشهرستاني
Hussain al-Shahristani Cropped.jpg
Shahristani in 2009
Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research
In office
8 September 2014 – 15 August 2016
Prime MinisterHaider al-Abadi
Preceded byAli al-Adeeb
Succeeded byAbdul Razzaq al-Issa
Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq
In office
21 December 2010 – 8 September 2014
Prime MinisterNouri al-Maliki
Preceded byBarham Salih
Salam al-Zobaie
Raffie al-Issawi
Succeeded byHoshyar Zebari
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
11 July 2014 – 8 September 2014
Prime MinisterNouri al-Maliki
Preceded byHoshyar Zebari
Succeeded byIbrahim al-Jaafari
Minister of Energy
In office
20 May 2006 – 21 December 2010
Prime MinisterNouri al-Maliki
Preceded byIbrahim Bahr al-Uloum
Succeeded byAbdul Karim Luaibi
Personal details
Hussain Ibrahim Saleh al-Shahristani

1942 (age 76–77)
Karbala, Iraq
Political partyState of Law Coalition
Alma materImperial College London
University of Toronto
University of Baghdad

Early life and educationEdit

Shahristani was born in 1942 in Karbala, Iraq. His family name, Shahristani, is Iranian and in addition to his native Arabic he has strong command of Persian as a second language.[1] Shahristani showed an exceptional aptitude for science in Secondary School,[2] Shahristani received a BSc in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College London in 1965, and an MSc from the University of Toronto in 1967, from where he also received a PhD in Chemical Engineering in 1970. He specialised in the design and building of nuclear reactors. Part of his education was also in Russia.[3]


He was tipped to be the Iraqi Prime Minister during the 2004 discussions, a position which he refused to take it and stated "I have always concentrated on serving the people and providing them with their basic needs, rather than party politics."[2]

A senior member of the State of Law alliance,[4] he was previously the deputy speaker of the Iraqi National Assembly under the Iraqi Transitional Government and was considered for the post of Prime Minister in both the current government and the interim government.

He was appointed oil minister in May 2006 after the withdrawal of the Islamic Virtue Party Minister, which was also a Shia from the government coalition. By August, however, he was under pressure as there was a fuel crisis.[5]

In December 2012 he was named the head of the committee responsible for receiving and addressing the demands of the demonstrators. He has made some significant achievements in period of December 2012 to February 2013.

From 2006 to 2010, Shahristani was Iraq's minister of oil, and he served as acting minister of electricity in 2010.[6]

Before his arrest and imprisonment Shahristani served as Chief Scientific Advisor to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission. Prior to that, he was a lecturer at Mosul University (1973), an Assistant Professor at Baghdad University (1974), Chief of Baghdad University’s Radioisotope Production Department from 1975 to 1977, and Chief of the Nuclear Chemistry Department from 1977 to 1979.[7]

He is recognised as the architect of Iraq's oil future and during his time Iraq oil output reached a 20-Year high.[8]


The key reason why Shahristani was imprisoned is that he was personally requested by Saddam to contribute to a military program to produce Weapons of Mass Destruction. He refused on moral and religious grounds. He was first enticed with money and high government positions in return for his cooperation in building the WMD program Saddam intended.

Former government officials, including Khidir Hamza his successor, have claimed that he was imprisoned for his refusal to cooperate with Saddam's WMD program and his intentions to build nuclear weapons. He was imprisoned personally by Saddam Hussein and was threatened directly by him too. "While imprisoned and tortured at Abu Ghraib prison for 11 years under Saddam Hussein he refused to help build a nuclear weapon for the country."[9]

He was later sentenced to death in an effort to terrorize him but the sentence was reduced to lifetime imprisonment as the regime always hoped it could benefit from his skills and expertise one day—a false hope which never materialized for Saddam's regime. He was put in a solitary confinement prison cell for 8 years and was not allowed to make any communication with his family or the outside world during that period.

In his biography book Escaping to Freedom, he mentions that "the sound of a defective neon light was the highlight of his time during that period since silence was all he could listen to". He could not have a conversation even with his prison guards and food was passed to him through the gap under the prison cell's door. He escaped from Abu Ghraib during the 1991 Gulf War and went to Iran, where he left for UK. He obtained his freedom in an extremely daring 'Hollywood' style escape plan which was conceived, orchestrated and implemented by him. He went on to set up humanitarian aid organisations for the millions of Iraqi refugees during the Saddam era.

Having spent more than a decade (1979–1991) as a political prisoner in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison under the regime of Saddam, he escaped during an allied bombing raid on Baghdad during the First Gulf War. H.E. al-Shahristani fled to Iran where he served as head of the Gulf War Victims Organization from 1991 to 1995. He later continued his support for the victims of Saddams's regime and the Gulf War as head of the Iraqi Political Prisoners Union (2003) and as Chief of the Iraqi Refugees Relief Committee (1998–2003).[7]

Other positionsEdit

Shahristani is a Visiting Professor at the University of Surrey United Kingdom.

In 2004, he taught as a professor at Baghdad University, and from 2002 to 2004 he was concurrently a visiting professor at Surrey University in the United Kingdom. In 2003 he was Head of the Iraqi National Academy of Sciences, and prior to his role there, from 1998 to 2002 was an advisor to the International Technical Research Centre, London, United Kingdom.[7]


Shahristani was awarded Roosevelt Freedom from Fear Award 2012. In a video of the award on YouTube Prof. al-Shahristani was presented the award by Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency IEA.

In his speech during the award ceremony he said "I confronted my fear in December 1979 when I had to make a choice: either to work on Saddam’s nuclear weapon program, or pay a price. The choice was simple, and the price turned out to be 11 years and 3 months in prison."

Conversation with Saddam's half-brotherEdit

After seven months in jail, Shahristani was taken in front of Saddam's half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti, who offered to free him if he would work on Iraq's secret nuclear weapons programme. "Anybody who refuses to serve his country does not deserve to be alive," Shahristani quoted Tikriti as telling him.

"I agree with you that the person must serve his country but what you are asking me is not a service to the country," Shahristani replied, he said in his book Escaping to Freedom (1999). He was eventually sentenced to 20 years and spent 11 in prison, some in solitary confinement.[10]

His reaction - Saddam's TrialEdit

"This is the day that the Iraqis have been waiting for. There are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of families who have lost their dear ones. They have been waiting for justice to be executed, and I think that Iraqis have received the news that they've been waiting for too many years."[11]

2014 Prime Minister To-BeEdit

He has been tipped by analysts close to decision makers in Iraq as a serious contender for the PM job.[12] On 11 July 2014 he assumed the role of acting foreign minister in addition to his deputy prime ministership, after Kurdish politicians including former Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari withdrew from the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.[13]

Further readingEdit

  • Bond, M. "Saying no to Saddam" [Interview]. New Scientist v. 182 (26 June. 2004) p. 44–7.
  • Dyer, G. "Two for the Peace Prize" [nominating M. Vanunu and H. Shahristani]. World Press Review v. 45 no. 4 (April 1998) p. 48.
  • Glanz, J. "Iraq Compromise on Oil Law Seems to Be Collapsing". The New York Times (Late New York Edition) (13 September 2007) p. A1, A11.
  • Glanz, J. "In Iraq, a Quest to Rebuild One More Broken Edifice: Science". The New York Times (Late New York Edition) (31 August 2004) p. F1, F4.
  • Watson, A. "The Very Model of a Modern Iraqi Dissident" [Interview]. Science v. 298 (22 November 2002) p. 1543–4.
Political offices
Preceded by
Ahmed Chalabi
Minister of Energy
Succeeded by
Abdul Karim Al Luaibi
Preceded by
Barham Salih
Deputy Prime Minister for Energy
Succeeded by
Hoshyar Zebari
Preceded by
Hoshyar Zebari
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Ibrahim al-Jaafari
Preceded by
Mohammad Al Jabouri
Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research
Succeeded by


  1. ^ "Iran in Iraq: How Much Influence?" (PDF). Crisis Group. 21 March 2005. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 June 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Iraq oil minister Shahristani staked future on oil auctions". The National. Archived from the original on 5 May 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2013. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ ", Black Sea Energy & Economic Forum". 25 July 2011. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011.
  4. ^ Archived from the original on 6 September 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Civil War Violence Explodes Throughout Iraq, Informed Comment, 28 August 2006[dubious ]
  6. ^ Shahristani given temporary power portfolio, "Iraq Oil Report", 23 June 2010
  7. ^ a b c (in Norwegian)[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Ajrash, Kadhim (22 December 2011). "Iraq Oil Output Has Reached a 20-Year High, Shahristani Says". Bloomberg. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  9. ^ Profile: Hussain al-Shahristani, Times Online, 26 May 2004.
  10. ^ Gamal, Rania El (18 December 2010). "Shahristani, architect of Iraq's oil future". Reuters. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  11. ^ "Saddam hanged: Reaction in quotes". BBC News. 30 December 2006. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  12. ^ "Al-Maliki Does Not Get a Third Term in Iraq, so what?". Especialview. 11 February 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
  13. ^ "Tensions mount between Baghdad and Kurdish region as Kurds seize oil fields". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 July 2014.