Jewish Affairs rep fired by Kurdish government

The representative of the Jewish Community in Kurdistan, Sherzad Mahmoud Mamsani, has been fired ‘to appease Baghdad’ according to this Times of Israel piece. The news does not come as a total surprise to readers of Point of No Return. In March 2017, we reported that the Jewish Directorate had been suspended, ostensibly for lack of funds. From the outset, rumours have been swirling around the figure of Mamsani: he is not a Jew, he is responsible for the ‘fake news’ that Kurdistan still has a Jewish community – and even enlisted the help of an Israeli rabbi to reconstruct it in order to attract US funds – or, he is an Iranian agent. Whatever the truth, it seems that Kurdistan wants to reset its relationship with Baghdad following the disastrous independence referendum in September 2017.(With thanks: Lily)

Update: Mamsani himself has left a comment. This accuses the journalist, Judith Neurink, of misinformation putting his life at risk:

Shalom
There is some very misleading information in the report
Some information is threatening my life
I am three years with all my efforts I served my mother’s religion in the midst of fire
If I have a position or without positions
I am proud of my Jewish religion and our Jewish and Kurdish people
So far I am a constant activity and struggle
Sherzad Mamsani

IRBIL, Iraq – After working for Iraqi Kurdistan’s Ministry of
Endowment and Religious Affairs for two years, the region’s Jewish
representative, Sherzad Mamsani, has been let go. The move is especially
peculiar since Mamsani’s position was unpaid.

Mamsani said he was not forewarned about his dismissal, which occurred while he was on sick leave abroad.

Mariwan Nasqshbandy, the director of religious coexistence at the
Endowment and Religious Affairs Ministry, hinted that the firing could
be an effort by the Kurds to reconcile with Baghdad following shaky
relations after an independence referendum in September of last year. In
the referendum, 93 percent of Iraqi Kurds voted for secession and an
autonomous state.

Nasqshbandy said that the move was likely political because the
Religious Affairs ministry previously ignored his complaints that
Mamsani was proving ineffective at mobilizing Kurdistan’s dormant Jewish
community.

Mamsani was one of seven religious minority representatives whose
posts were created by the Kurdistani parliament in 2015. The Jewish
representative’s position was unique in that its aim was to unite Kurds
whose Jewish grandparents converted to Islam. He wanted to offer them a
Jewish education and opportunity to return to their roots.

To help rebuild the Jewish community in Kurdistan, Mamsani looked for
help from Rabbi Daniel Edri, the chief of the Haifa, Israel, rabbinical
court.

In a telephone call with The Times of Israel, Edri claimed that Kamal
Muslim, the Minister of Endowment and Religious Affairs, appointed him
chief rabbi of Kurdistan. (Naqshbandy said he had no knowledge of this.)

A December 30, 2017 post on the Facebook page entitled Rabbi Daniel
EDRI, Kurdistan claimed that the region had a new rabbi for the first
time in years.

Sherzad Mamsani, left, with Israeli Rabbi
Daniel Edri, who is helping trace Jewish lineage and rebuild the
community in the region. (Courtesy)

“Hello my friends from all over the world,” the post said. “Its
Kurdistan have new Rabbi after 70 years [sic]. Its the first time after
70 years a Rabbi can start in Kurdistan the new Jewish life.”

The rabbi stressed that Israel did not send him and that he has no
political motivations. “I will only work for the religion, since the
[locals] do not have any information on the Jewish laws,” Edri said.

Since the September referendum, Kurdish airports have been closed for
international flights and Iraqi troops have taken control of disputed
territories formerly overseen by the Kurds, including the oil rich city
of Kirkuk. Iran also temporarily closed its borders with the Kurdistan
region.

Edri expects to return to Irbil as soon as international flights are
resumed, although Naqshbandy said he would prefer to have a Kurdish
rabbi who speaks the language.

In most Muslim countries leaving Islam is considered a crime, but
returning to Judaism is especially discouraged by the staunchly
anti-Israel governments in Baghdad and Tehran. Both countries were
incensed when Israeli flags appeared at rallies during the referendum
campaign, where Israel was touted as the only state supporting the
Kurdish demand for secession.

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