SEATTLE , Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is putting $5 million toward a program that grants fellowships to academics facing persecution in Iraq.
The initiative, which would help Iraqi scholars continue their work at institutions in other countries, marks a departure for the Gates' charity, which had focused on projects concerning health and development, the Financial Times reported Thursday.
The U.S. Congress has also approved $5 million for the program, which is the brainchild of the Scholar Rescue Fund, an organization founded in 2002 by a team that includes several Wall Street titans.
Officers at the fund began concentrating on Iraq this year after the number of scholars seeking aid jumped to as many as 40 a week after averaging three or four a month before autumn 2006, the newspaper said.
Bill and Melinda Gates support the project because "the protection of part of Iraq’s intellectual capital ... will be essential for Iraq’s future development," a spokeswoman for the foundation told the Financial Times.