is the modern designation fro the country carved out of ancient
Babylonia, Assyria, and the southern part of Turkey after World
is also the place of the oldest Jewish Diaspora and the one with
the longest continuous history, from 721 BCE to 1949 CE, a time
span of 2,670 years.
the 3rd century, Babylonia became the center of Jewish scholarship,
as is attested to by the communitys most influential contribution
to Jewish scholarship, the Babylonian Talmud. Jews had prospered
in what was then Babylonia for 1200 years before the Muslim conquest
in 634 AD. Under Muslim rule, the situation of the Jewish community
fluctuated. Some Jews held high positions in government or prospered
in commerce and trade. At the same time, Jews were subjected to
special taxes, restrictions on their professional activity. Under
British rule, which began in 1917, Jews fared well economically,
but all of this progress ended when Iraq gained independence in
June 1941, the Mufti-inspired, pro-Nazi coup of Rashid Ali sparked
rioting and a pogrom in Baghdad. Armed Iraqi mobs murdered 180 Jews
and wounded almost 1,000.
outbreaks of anti-Jewish rioting occurred between 1946-1949. After
the establishment of Israel in 1948, Zionism became a capital crime.
1950, Iraqi Jews were permitted to leave the country within a year
provided they forfeited their citizenship. A year later, however,
the property of Jews who emigrated was frozen and economic restrictions
were placed on Jews who chose to remain in the country. From 1949
to 1951, 104,000 Jews were evacuated from Iraq in Operations Ezra
and Nehemiah; another 20,000 were smuggled out through Iran. Thus
a community that had reached a peak of some 150,000 in 1947 dwindled
to a mere 6,000 after 1951.
1952, Iraqs government barred Jews from emigrating. With the
rise of competing Baath factions in 1963, additional restrictions
were placed on the remaining Iraqi Jews. The sale of property was
forbidden and all Jews were forced to carry yellow identity cards.
Persecutions continued, especially after the Six-Day War in 1967,
when many of the remaining 3,000 Jews were arrested and dismissed
from their jobs. Around that period, more repressive measures were
imposed: Jewish property was expropriated; Jewish bank accounts
were frozen; Jews were dismissed from public posts; businesses were
shut; trading permits were cancelled; telephones were disconnected.
Jews were placed under house arrest for long periods of time or
restricted to the cities.
was at its worst at the end of 1968. Scores were jailed upon the
discovery of an alleged local spy ring composed of Jewish
businessmen. Fourteen men-eleven of them Jews-were sentenced to
death in staged trials and, on January 27, 1969, were hanged in
the public squares of Baghdad; others died of torture (Judith Miller
and Laurie Mylroie, Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf,
response to international pressure, the Baghdad government quietly
allowed most of the remaining Jews to emigrate in the early 1970s,
even while leaving other restrictions in force. In 1973, most of
Iraqs remaining Jews were too old to leave and they were pressured
by the government to turn over title, without compensation, to more
than $200 million worth of Jewish community property (New York Times,
February 18, 1973).
approximately 61 Jews are left in Baghdad. A once flourishing Jewish
community in Iraq has thus been extinguished (Associated Press,
March 28, 1998).
Decrees and Violations of Human Rights
(Intended merely as a sampling and not an exhaustive compilation)
first piece of legislation enacted that violated the rights of Jews
was the 1948 amendment 12 to the 1938 supplement 13 to the Penal
Code of Baghdad. The Baghdad Penal Code set out the provision regarding
communism, anarchy and immorality in section 89A(1). The section
generally prohibits the publication of anything that incites the
spread of hatred, abuse of the government or the integrity of the
people. This amendment, enacted in 1948, added Zionism
to communism, anarchism and immorality, the propagation of which
constituted an offence punishable by seven years imprisonment and/or
an article that appeared in the New York Times on May 16, 1948,
it was reported that: In Iraq no Jew is permitted to leave
the country unless he deposits £5,000 ($20,000) with the Government
to guarantee his return. No foreign Jew is allowed to enter Iraq
even in transit.
No. 1 of 1950, entitled Supplement to Ordinance Cancelling
Iraqi Nationality, in fact deprived Jews of their Iraqi nationality.
Section 1 stipulated that the Council of Ministers may cancel
the Iraqi nationality of the Iraqi Jew who willingly desires to
leave Iraq... (official Iraqi English translation).
No. 5 of 1951 entitled A law for the Supervision and Administration
of the Property of Jews who have Forfeited Iraqi Nationality
also deprived them of their property. Section 2(a) freezes
were a series of laws that subsequently expanded on the confiscation
of assets and property of Jews who forfeited Iraqi nationality.
These included Law No. 12 of 1951 16 and the attached Law No. 64
of 1967 (relating to ownership of shares in commercial companies)
and Law No. 10 of 1968 (relating to banking restrictions).
Law No. 1 of 1950 entitled supplement to Ordinance canceling
Iraqi Nationality, Official Iraqi Gazette, March 9, 1950.
Law No. 5 of 1951 entitled A law for the Supervision and
Administration of the Property of Jews who have Forfeited Iraqi
Nationality (Official Gazette, 10 March 1951, English version,