Remembering the Jewish martyrs of Iraq

 Fifty years ago, the remaining few thousand Jews in Iraq endured a period of extreme anxiety and terror as nine innocent Jews were hanged in Liberation Square in Baghdad. Scores more disappeared. David Kheder Basson, chairman of the Association of Academics from Iraq in Israel, drew up a list of the victims for the Arabic media Elaph and Akhbar, and posted the articles in English translation on Facebook. Here is an abridged version, combining Parts 1 and 11.

Memorial candles were lit for the nine victims of the Baghdad hangings during a ceremony at Bene Naharayim synagogue, New York on 3 February 2019 (Photo: Rafi.com)

January 27, is a day with a painful memory for the Jews of Iraq. It
is the day when nine Jews were executed fifty years ago. Their bodies were
hanged from the gallows in al-Tahrir Square in Baghdad and Um al-Broom
in Basra. There was also a 10th victim whose father was Jewish.

In the first five years of the Baath regime (1968-1973), the remnants of
the Jews of Iraq, numbering around 3,000 people, were subjected to a
vicious campaign of executions, killings, tortures, kidnapping and
ad-hoc arrests, aside from discrimination and persecution.

In the autumn of 1968, a
frenzied campaign against the Jews of Iraq began. Dozens of Iraqi Jews
from all social classes and ages were arrested again. Some of them were
accused of spying for Israel and subversion. The government carried out
campaign of executions and physical liquidation in prisons. The Jews
were helpless in a game whose real aim was to intimidate the Iraqi
people and Baath opponents by picking the most vulnerable minority in
Iraq, knowing that no one will dare to object or to voice protest.

The arrest campaign began in September 1968 when four Jews were
arrested and disappeared without trace. Rumors started circulating
that they were in Qasr Alnihaya (the Palace of the End) – a royal palace
that was used as an infamous prison and where people were tortured and
killed. Weeks later we heard that seventeen Jews from Basra had been
arrested and brought to Baghdad on charges of spying for Israel; ten of
them were students. The number increased over the next weeks to more
than thirty people.

Show trial in January 1969

Most of the accused who were tried in January
1969 in a revolutionary court, headed by an army guy called Watwout,
were tortured and had to confess that they were spies, except for Naji
Zilkha, Charles Horesh, Zaki Zitou and Abdel-Hussain Nur Gita who
refused to obey the instructions and insisted on their innocence despite
the severe torture they were subjected to, according to the testimony
of prisoners who were with them. The court appointed a defense lawyer
who was apologetic that he had to defend spies, instead of trying to show
that the accusations were false and that confessions were made under
torture.

After several hearings of the mock trials and trumped-up
charges, 14 people were sentenced to death and were executed by hanging
in the central prison in Baghdad on the night of 26 January. The bodies
of eleven of the accused were hanged by the gallows in the morning of
the 27th in al-Tahrir square in Baghdad and three in Um al-Broom square
in Basra.

These are the names of those who have been executed
(God bless their souls). Their dead bodies were hanged and each one of
them had a plaque with his name, profession and religion:

Handwritten list kept by Salman Dabby, cantor of the Meir Tweg synagogue, of those hanged in January 1969. Now at the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center

1969

Nine Jews executed:

Ezra Naji Zilkha (51)
– a household appliances dealer in Basra, flown from Baghdad to Basra
so his body could hang in Um Al-Broom square

Na’im Khedhouri Hilali (19) – a Commerce College student from Basra

Daoud Heskel Dalal (16) – a student in Basra, was forced to say that
he was nineteen years old so that he could be tried and  sentenced to
death

Hesqal Saleh Hesqel (17) – A student from Basra, was forced to say that he was over eighteen in order to be hanged

Sabah Haim Dayan (30) – car spare parts dealer from Basra

Daoud Ghali Yadgar (23) – student from Basra

Yaqoub Gourji Namerdi (38) – employee of a transport company from Basra

Fouad Gabbay (30) – employee in the Excise Office in Basra

Charles Rafael Horesh (44) – car dealer and agent from Baghdad.

Hanged on the same day:

Jamal Sabih al-Hakim, a student at the University of Basra who was of
Jewish origin (his father had converted to Islam or so we were
understood), was executed with this group. His body was hanged in the Um
al-Broom square in Basra

Abdul Mohsin Jarallah – a Shiite Muslim merchant,

Muhammad Abdul Hussain Nur Gita – a Shiite Muslim from Pakistan,
hanged in Baghdad and his body was taken to Basra to hang in the square
of Al-Broum

Zaki Andraus Zitou – a Christian from Basra

Albert Habib Thomas – a Christian from Basra (Sami, the brother of Albert, died from torture)

These are the names of other Iraqi Jews who were murdered:

1968-1969

Yaqoub (Jack) Atrakji, a textile dealer and exporter of dates and
real estate owner was arrested on 8 November as a suspect in the
espionage network above. He died on the same day as a result of torture
to terrorize the other defendants and to force them to confess the
charges. The disregard for judicial and moral values reached the lowest
level when the Revolutionary Court sentenced him to death by hanging, in
absentia, for his escape and not attending court to answer charges. His
body was never found. His properties including liquid assets were expropriated

Nissim Yair Hakham, an accountant in a contractor’s office. He was
arrested at the beginning of September and died a week later as a result
of torture. His body was handed over five months later for Jewish
burial in the cemetery without allowing the family to attend. Throughout
the period in which his body was in the refrigerator, the prison staff
continued to receive food and clothing from his family

Fouad
Yaqoub Shasha
– an iron merchant who was arrested on 21 December with
his father and imprisoned in a basement in Qasr Alnihaya and then disappeared.
About three weeks later, the official newspaper reported that he had
fled. His body was never found.

Shimon Maslawi,  newsagent in
Baghdad. He was arrested in the Adhamiya district in December 1968 and
charged with spying. He died in the same month from torture and was
buried in an Islamic cemetery.

After the global wave of disgust
at the executions and the public hanging of bodies and celebrations, the
government resorted to other methods of execution and murder of Jews
during the rest of 1969:

Daoud Sasson Zubaida, a construction
contractor who was arrested on 23 July and imprisoned in Qasr Alnihaya,
was tortured. The office of the Rabbinate was told three days later to
send someone to take his body for burial

• On 25 August, Yitzhak
Eliahu Dallal
, the agent of Toshiba in Baghdad and Hesqel Rafael Yacoub,
owner of properties from Basra, were hanged in the central prison in
Baghdad

Naji Sa’ati was executed in the central prison on 7 November.

Akram Ezra Baher was arrested on 27 September and died in Qasr Alnihaya from torture. His body was not found.

1970 – 1971

Three Jews were killed:

Shoua Soufair, a trademark registrar, was take to Qasr Alnihaya and
died from torture. His body was not found; his wife had been looking
for him for months and was told that he had escaped.

Albert Yehuda
Nounou
, a wealthy man from Baghdad, was imprisoned in September 1968 and was
executed in the central prison with others in the Baath bloodbath on
21 and 22 January 1970

Ezra Yaqoub Jouri was arrested in January
1970 and imprisoned in Qasr Alnihaya. After severe torture, he was
released in January 1971. A week after his release, his body was found
near Baghdad airport with gunshots and bound hands and feet.

1972

Even after the departure of most Jews from Iraq and with only a few
hundred left, 10 Jews were abducted or arrested in the autumn of 1972,
leaving no trace behind.

In September

Yaqoub Abdel Aziz, lawyer. He was kidnapped just before Yom Kippur

Yaqoub Yamen Rejwan, a merchant arrested from his home

Shaul Yamen Rejwan, owner of a liquor store – was arrested from his home in October

Dr. Ezra Khazam, a doctor who went out to visit friends and was
kidnapped in the street and forced to ride in a car while passers-by
looked on

Hesqel Victor Abu Dawood, a cloth merchant from Basra, was arrested from his home

Shaul Barukh Shamash, owner of real estate properties, arrested from his home

Menashe Shamash, 77, the father of eight children, was kidnapped on
his way to the cafe to invite his friends to attend a wedding ceremony.

Salim Sadqa, accounts holder

Ezra Shamtoub

In November

Naji Chetayat

1973

When only a few Jews remained in Iraq, 15 were killed – 9 of them were
arrested and disappeared without trace, their properties were looted,
and 6 were killed in their homes (5 from one family – Qashqoush):

No further trace after their arrest

Naji Ezra Qashqoush – Car Dealer and his young wife Suad Qashqoush. The two were arrested on 6 February

Ezra Menashe Qahtan – a tailor and his brother Salim Menashe Qahtan were arrested on 20 March

Naim Salim Fattal, a hardware vendor arrested on 29 March

Shoua Aziz Al-Baqal, a carpenter arrested on 4 April

Yehuda Khadhouri al-Sayegh, and his sisters Rahma and Eliza were arrested on April and their home was looted

Killed at home

Abraham Nassim al-Sayegh was killed on 10 October in his house and his home was looted

• The Qashqoush family massacre of five members on 12 April  – Father
Ruben Ezra, mother Clementine, sons Samir, Fuad and daughter Joyce, were
slaughtered in their house and their bodies were cut and carried in
suitcase. No one knows if they were buried or not

1975

Ruben Balboul was killed in Baghdad in mysterious circumstances

Moshe Hakham Eliahu, a pharmacist suffered a heart attack which led
to his death in hospital on the same day he was released after several
months of torture

1992

Esterina Bakhash-Abed was killed at home and her flat was looted

1998

Zion Hakkak and Moshe Shlomo Ephraim were shot dead when a
Palestinian entered the Administrative office of the Jewish community in
Baghdad

2005

• And finally, after the fall of Saddam a young man Yaqoub Shahrbani was kidnapped and disappeared without  trace.

*When will Iraq Apologise ? (See penultimate letter by Lyn Julius, Jewish Chronicle, 1 Feb) 

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