The following passage shows the sheer brutality of the Iraqi regime. It is an account by an Iraqi Jew on how he was treated because of his religion, by Saddam and his punks. My father was an Iraqi Jew and he had to survive the same brutality by Saddams regime. I hope that those who are against war take time to read this thread and hopefully understand how Iraqi civilians (Kurds, Shias, and Sunni muslims) are living today. Although this passage hasnt got much to do with the oncoming war, I thought it would interesting to have a thread dedicated to Iraqi human-right violations (seeing as so many people enjoy condemning Israel and the US).
The following taken from http://thesite2000.virtualave.net/iraqijews/index2.html
Preface to My Memoirs
In writing my memoirs, I hope to both remind and inform people on the hardships endured by Jews throughout the Arab Middle East in the 20th Century. My story is not uncommon in the Iraqi Jewish community. Those Jews that remained in Baghdad after the mass exodus of 1950-51 were dehumanized, threatened, and abused both physically and emotionally during certain periods of the Iraqâ€™s recent history. Through all this, we remained committed to our families, our heritage, and our community (locally and globally) and also to ensuring that future generations of Babylonian Jews would never experience the nightmare of racism and hatred.
-Saeed Herdoon, New York 2001
The Iraqi Jews:
A Brief History
The Iraqi Jewish community is one of the oldest in the world and has a remarkable history of learning and scholarship.
Iraq is one of the most ancient lands mentioned in the Old Testament, as it was the birthplace of our first patriarch and the first monotheistic religion. This beautiful country lies on the most fertile land in the world, between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates (Dijla and Al Furat). In this country, where the early stories of the Bible began, our first patriarch, Abraham was presumably born around 1900 BCE in the Babylonian City of Ur in Southern Iraq.
In 626 AD, the country, which had previously been under Persian, then Greek rule, was invaded by Arabs and the land was given a new Arabic name, Iraq. Arabic became the official language, and the Jews and Christians, whom the rulers considered People of the Book and believers in the same God, were granted civil and religious freedom in return for payment of a tax. The new government even officially recognized the head of Jewish community.
In 750, Iraq came under the rule of a Caliph, a Muslim religious leader, who selected a small place on the Tigris as his capital. That place was known as Medeenat al Salaam, or City of Peace, also known as Baghdad. This was the beginning of one of the most glorious periods in the history of the Jews of Iraq.
As the Sephardic traveler, Benjamin of Tudela noted in the year 1170, " â€¦the Jews dwell in security, prosperity, and honor under the Great Caliph: and amongst them are great sages, the heads of academies engaged in the study of law...The city of Baghdad is twenty miles in circumference, situated in a land of palms, gardens, and plantations, the like of which is not to be found in the whole land of Shinar. People come thither with merchandise from all lands. Wise men live there, philosophers who know all manner of wisdom, and magicians expert in all manners of witchcraft."
The Jewish community enjoyed good relations with the authorities and with the rest of the population, except for short intervals where the Caliph was intolerant to non-Muslims. According to historical records, the Jewish population in Baghdad alone reached 40,000 and had 28 magnificent synagogues and as many private schools. At that time, the communityâ€™s leader moved to Baghdad and adopted a new, more prestigious title of Nasse, or President.
At of the beginning of the 16th century, Iraq fell into the hands of the Persians and later the Turks. Although many disasters fell upon the Jewish community, both manmade and natural, the Jewish presence in Iraq remained strong until it was finally made part of the Ottoman Empire by the Turks in 1534. At the turn of the 20th century, towards the end of the Ottoman rule, the leadership of the Jewish community changed from that of a Nassee, or President, to that of Hakham Bashi, or Chief Rabbi.
The defeat of the Ottomans led to the British Mandate that created the nation of Iraq after World War I. At the time, Jews constituted 2.3% of the national population, but 25% of the population of Baghdad, where they dominated the imports and exports of the country.
In a 1925 book, The Heart of the Middle East, writer Richard Coke notes that,
"There are a number of non-Muslim minorities in Iraq. The most important of these minorities is the great community of the Jews, who number 90,000. The importance of the modern Jewish community in the country is based on commercial powerâ€¦it would seem that the Jews are by far the wealthiest of the various communitiesâ€¦Until the recent arrival of the European bank, they controlled all the banking activities in the country, and a large proportion of the import and export business has always been in their handsâ€¦They also control as appreciable proportion of the retail trade of the countryâ€¦The Baghdad Jew has become far more Europeanized than any other portion of the populationâ€¦His knowledge is frequently very broad."
The tone of the first few years of the Iraqi nation was set by a simple statement made by King Fisal the First in 1921, "Nobody in our country should be named Moslem, Christian, or Jewish. There is only one name: Iraqi citizen."
After the independence of Iraq, Jews dominated the economy. Most of the imports, exports, manufacturing, transpiration between Iraq and its neighboring countries, and insurance companies were directly owned by Jews. Banks, such as Bank Zilka and Credit Bank had branches in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Geneva, Paris, and New York. The Iraqi Government even used these banks for their own transactions.
Many, many Jews were appointed to high positions in the Government- serving as Parliament members, Senate members, in the Treasury, the Education department, Postal Service, and Police Dept. During several of the early Governments, the Iraqi Finance Minister and the top Supreme Court Judge were also Jewish.
The decline of the conditions the Jews had become accustomed to began after the death of King Faisal in 1933. The King was a moderate ruler sympathetic to the Jewish community. Following his death, Faisal was succeeded by his son Ghazi, who held a less favorable attitude towards the Jewish minority. He allowed extremist elements free rein in the country and allowed Nazi propaganda to filter into the minds of the people. After Ghazi was mysteriously killed in a car crash in 1939, conditions quickly worsened for the Jews of Iraq. For example, a 1941 riot against the Jews, which lasted two days in Baghdad, killed over 300 and damaged 6500 Jewish homes. The incident sparked the beginnings of illegal fleeing of many thousands over the border into Iran. Some went as far as India. However, these early events and the fear that was generated were only a small clue as to what lay ahead. The founding of the state of Israel in 1948, accompanied by a surge of pro-Arab nationalism, lead to unprecedented horror inflicted on the community. Following the declaration of Israeli statehood, headlines in Iraqi newspapers read, "The Fate of all Jews will either be the Grave or the Sea." The Prime Minister quickly announced Iraqi army participation in the war against Israel and added Zionism to Article 51 of the criminal code of Iraq, with the threat of death as a punishment. Jews were falsely arrested, imprisoned, and many tortured and killed. Homes were confiscated, engagement in foreign trade was forbidden, and Jewish owned businesses were boycotted.
Finally, in March 1950, the Minster of Interior announced a bill that allowed Jewish citizens to leave the country on the condition that they renounce their Iraqi citizenship. By the end of that window of opportunity, 90% of the 150,000 total Jewish community had registered to leave the country and settled in Israel. Those who chose to stay in Iraq stayed during the countryâ€™s most unstable periods. Several coups, revolts, and a complete lack of social and political stability marked these years.
The 1968 Coup, led by Ahmad Hasan Al-Bakr and Saddam Hussein brought the Baâ€™ath Party to Power. The defeat of the Arabs by Israel in the war of 1967 traumatized many politicians and Arab nationalists and spurred another frightening reign of terror against the Jews. The leaders of the revolution used Anti-Semitism as a policy to unite the rest of the country against the Zionistic threat. In 1968, President Bakr made a speech carried live on Iraqi television in which he declared, "We shall strike mercilessly with a fist of steel of those exploitersâ€¦of imperialism and Zionism." He even called out to the crowd of thousands," What do you want?" The answer would be a thunderous "Death to the Spies (Jews)! Execution of all the Spies without delay!"
Public hangings of these so called spies in Baghdadâ€™s main square, the rounding up of men into prisons, and the torturing of an innocent many sparked, once again, the illegal fleeing of Jews out of Iraq in the 1970â€™s. They fled across the northern border, into Iran, and then onto Israel and other countries.
Recent accounts number the remaining community to less than 30 Jews living in the old Jewish quarter of Baghdad. Only one synagogue continues to function in all of Iraq.