On 25 July, during its 42nd meeting, the Council of SESAME unanimously approved Iraq’s request to become an associate member. Iraq will now become a prospective member of SESAME as a stepping stone to full membership.
“My visit to SESAME on 8 June 2023 has convinced me that Iraq will stand to greatly benefit from membership, and that this would be the right moment for it to become a member,” stated Naeem Alaboodi, minister of higher education and scientific research and head of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, in his letter to Rolf Heuer, president of the SESAME Council. “However, before doing so it would like to better familiarise itself with the governance, procedures and activity of this centre, and feels that the best way of doing this would be by first taking on associate membership.”
SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East), based in Allan, Jordan, was founded on the CERN model and established under the umbrella of UNESCO. It opened its doors to users in 2017, offering third-generation X-ray beamlines for a range of disciplines, with the aim to be the first international Middle-Eastern research institution enabling scientists to collaborate peacefully for the generation of knowledge (CERN Courier January/February 2023 p28). SESAME has eight full members (Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine and Turkey) and 17 observers, including CERN. One of SESAME’s main focuses is archaeological heritage. This will be the topic of the first Iraqi user study, which involves two Iraqi institutes collaborating in a project of the Natural History Museum in the UK.
Iraq has been following progress at SESAME for some time. As an associate member Iraq will enjoy access to SESAME’s facilities for its national priority projects and more opportunities for international collaboration.“Iraq’s formal association with SESAME will be very useful for Iraqi scientists to gain the required scientific knowledge in many different areas of science and applications using synchrotron radiation,” said Hua Liu, deputy director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been actively encouraging its member states located in the region to seek membership of SESAME.
“The Council and all the members of SESAME are delighted by Iraq’s decision,” added Heuer. “We look forward to further countries of the region joining the SESAME family. With more beamlines available in the future, we hope that user groups from different countries will be working together on projects and we will see more transnational collaboration.”