Let’s not forget that over 40 Iraqi Jews were murdered

Every 27  January, the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day, but in the minds of Iraqi Jews,  the day is also indelibly associated with the public hangings of nine Jews in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on 27 January 1969.  Moreover, this year marks fifty years since the culmination of a murderous terror campaign against the 3,000 Jews still remaining in Iraq, resulting in the deaths of over 40 Jews. Most were randomly arrested and disappeared, never to be seen again.

Half a million Iraqis came to sing, dance and picnic under the gibbets in Baghdad’s Tahrir square on 27 January 1969


After a show trial on charges of trumped-up spying charges, nine Jews were among 14 innocent individuals executed. Several were under the age limit for execution. A tenth man and his sister were murdered in a Basra jail. Others narrowly averted death.

Jack Salman Hikmet, 16 at the time, lost his uncle Saul when the secret police came to take him away in 1972. A year later, five members of the Kashkoush family were brutally murdered in their home and their bodes put into the suitcases with which they were planning to leave Iraq just days later. He recalls:

“My Uncle Saul was the one who sat me down after the hangings in 1969 and told me about what befell our people, the Jews (my parents didn’t, nor was our school allowed to track anything about “Zionist” history.)
His words,  that I remember to this day, were: ”Salman, we  (the Jews) are only few in number but would have by now numbered  in the 40 million because of a man called Hitler.”
He turned around and pulled a book from his extensive library: the book was the diaries of Anne Frank, and proceeded to tell me about the Holocaust and the creation of Israel.
Imagine at a time when Jews were hiding their siddurim, this brave man had such a book in Baghdad!
Shaoul (Saul) Rijwan was giving lunch to my younger brother  (9 years old) and sister (5 years old) at his house when they came for him. He was brave enough to ask them to let the children go, and somehow  they found their way home, crying, traumatised told my parents what had happened.
We know they killed him the same day, as the next day they emptied his house, business, and took his car. My siblings were the last to see him alive.
I always go back to the pictures of my barmitzvah a year before that day where uncle Saul and also Suad Kashkoush (nee Haskell) were congratulating me after putting my tefillin on.”
Jack Hikmet being congratulated by his uncle Saul at his Barmitzvah

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