by Max Sawdayee


Saturday August 2, 1969

The hideous torture and the quick, horrible death which ended the life of the well-known Jewish ex-contractor a few days ago, and the subsequent mutilation of his body, have left a deep, sad and scarring mark upon the entire Jewish community here. 

This fresh incident in the tragedy comes out precisely at the very critical time when the departure of the Jews of Iraq, their last hope, has been cancelled, and their hope shattered.

The relation between the two occurrences leaves hard, even fearfully obvious question marks.  Does the government intend to keep us in Iraq in order to exterminate us one by one, two by two, or in batches, to the very last?  Does the government intend, whenever need arises, to stage an all-out massacre of the Jews, to divert public opinion following intensified measures it may take in the near future, so as to keep its grasp of power?  Does the decision to cancel the planned departure of Jews from Iraq come out of pressure on the part of other Arab countries, to hold the maximum possible number of them in Egypt, Syria and Iraq as hostages indefinitely?  These and other relevant questions are staring us in the face, and we are at a loss to find a satisfactory answer to each and every one of them.

The Jew finds himself suddenly plunged into another convulsion that may lead to irrevocably desperate consequences.

Wednesday August 6, 1969

Ten Jews dragged out of their business premises at the end of last March were released yesterday on a five hundred dinar bail, each.  They all look quite thin, haggard, and worn out.  They do not like to say where they were and what happened to them during their detention for four months.  But it is no secret now that they were held in the Palace of the End and savagely tortured all the time.

What motivated the government to release them so suddenly?  To me, the government’s sudden move spells evil.

It has also been disclosed that an old Jewish woman held in prison for two years, accused of trying to flee the country illegally, has been stripped of her Iraqi citizenship and her last few belongings, and despatched to the Iranian frontier along with other Iraqi citizens of Iranian origin, all of whom have been expelled en masse.

Monday August 11, 1969

The Jewish Community Council was this morning notified to send somebody to the central prison to pick up the body of a Jewish ex-broker who was recently sentenced to death in a secret trial and was hanged in the central prison yesterday evening.  His partner, a Muslim, smelling a rat, bribed an employee in the Passport bureau, obtained a passport in time and fled the country to England about four months ago.  The Jew of course couldn’t do that.  He paid with his head.  

Two Jews have missed their lunches in their family circle this afternoon.  Nothing is heard of them even till late in the evening.  One of them is believed to have disappeared from the river front street while returning home from a walk he had told his wife he would take in the morning.  The other went to the market to buy shoes, and didn’t come back.

A fresh wave of terror holds us from the throat again!

Thinking of those two bewildered families, roaming the streets tonight in search of their beloved, makes me feel sick.  Wife, tense, obviously worried about them, asks me not to leave the house for a while.

Saturday August 16, 1969

Secret and public trials of people from all over the country continue in Baghdad in full swing.  The ‘Revolution Court’ is doing the maximum to catch up with time as hordes of prisoners arrive by the dozen.  It isn’t certain whether this notorious tribunal is the only one carrying this heavy and exhausting ‘burden’ alone, and whether any other tribunals are improvised here and there to relive it from part of the increasing pressure of work.

We know from various sources that thirteen people, including former Prime Minister Al-Bazzaz and two Jews (the two real estate broker brothers), are currently on a secret trial, and that a verdict is forthcoming.

It has been confirmed that the celebrated, respectable former Premier Al-Bazzaz has completely lost sight after being most cruelly tortured and hit on the head.  Cultured, decent Iraqis who like this man very much are stunned, ashamed and revolted by the news.  I humbly join them, I feel quite sad for him.  Scarcely does Iraq produce such a great, highly dedicated politician.

Also confirmed is the news that former Army Chief of Staff Abdul Aziz Al-Uquaily is definitely crippled after being savagely tortured in jail.  A man recently released from the central prison by chance, saw him every day crawling on all fours to go to the bathroom.  Abdul Aziz was one of the most capable, responsible and highly professional soldiers in Iraq.  His family is one of the most known and one of the finest in this country.

I feel so deeply ashamed that such noble sons of our country are so cruelly tortured, crippled, destroyed, and lost to us forever.

Tuesday August 21, 1969

Part of the Al-Aksa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem is in flames.  That could unleash a vast anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish campaign all over the Muslim world.  It may kindle a fresh accusation against Israel and the Jews based on ‘their crimes against religion’.

While the Israeli government launches an intense campaign to prevent the hanging of the Jewish broker brothers, their sentence has, for some reason, been commuted from the death sentence into three years hard labour.  Was it the Israel government’s efforts that helped reduce the death sentence to three years imprisonment? I believe it was.  When their wives and children met the victims after the trial, on the latter’s way to Ba’quba prison (some forty miles north of Baghdad), they home awfully shocked by the sight of the victims.  One of the two men had suffered a terrible breakdown and could not even understand what his wife was saying to him.  The other just could not walk at all.  He is still seriously wounded in both legs after a pair of scissors was crossed on his legs by torturers, and his legs were split from end to end.  ‘as long as they are alive they will overcome the torture!’ their wives remarked.  It is hoped they will.

Condemned in that same trial are former Interior Minister, Brigadier General Rashid Musleh, to death by firing squad, and former Premier Al-Bazzaz to ten years imprisonment.

Two humanitarians who have arrived from Denmark this week to obtain information about the situation of the Jews in Iraq, are told by the authorities to pack up and leave the country immediately.

Monday August 25, 1969

At ten to six yesterday evening I lay stretched on the sofa in the living room, reading a book describing a humanitarian point of view of the last giant offensive launched by the Russians from the Oder river and aimed at the capture of Berlin.  So bored and tense was I that only the description of human feelings of the Russian and German soldiers, and of the people of Berlin in the last days of the Second World War, could stir my feelings and ease my tension for a while.  Daughter Cordia dashed in, transistor in hand, childishly exclaiming: ‘Papi, how could it be that you aren’t listening to the news?!’  I couldn’t help laughing over the manner even my six-year old daughter knew how much importance I attached to the news all the time.  ‘Darling, there’s nothing important to hear.  And besides, it isn’t yet time for the news’, I said.  Then, as though not to hurt her feelings with that answer, I took the transistor from her hand and tuned it on to Baghdad.  She liked that better.

When the evening Koran recitation ended, the broadcasting station clock chimed six.  The radio speaker started with: ‘Death sentences will be enforced on fifteen persons found guilty of spying for Israel and other imperialist states’ and he went on listing the names.

Stunned, and reluctant to hear a name I might know, I switched off the radio instantly.  I rubbed my forehead out of sorrow and stepped out to breathe some fresh air.  ‘By heavens, this will never end!’ I said to myself.

The same radio speaker repeated the announcement this morning, confirming that ‘all fifteen people were executed at dawn this morning in the Baghdad central prison: ten civilians by hanging, and five soldiers by firing squad’.

Those fifteen people, nine Muslims, four Christians and two Jews, are a fresh addition to the list of those put to death.  They were to be executed yesterday evening, but for some mysterious reason their execution was delayed till dawn of this morning.  Later on we heard that the Soviet ambassador had intervened on their behalf to halt the massacre.  Obviously, he failed in his mission.

One of the two Jews hanged today, the local agent of the Japanese firm Toshiba Electronics, was a friend of mine.  His partner, a very wealthy and influential Muslim, went to his death with him. Five others, Muslims and Christians who had business relations with them have also joined them on their tortuous journey to heaven!   Does the government intend to give a harsh lesson to those Jews who continued working after the Six-Day War, the few who still do some business, threatening that they will pay with their heads for their ‘stubborn arrogance’?  Does the government mean to admonish Muslims and Christians too, keeping them away from maintaining any business contacts with Jews?  Most probably.  For these reasons the Party butchers find physical liquidation to be the only possible method.

The massacre at dawn today throws the whole nation into utter confusion and bitterness.  Everybody, even fanatic supporters of the regime, cannot bear any more such wild, savage butchering.

Wife, returning from the vegetable market this afternoon, says that almost all the shopkeepers there are loudly cursing and vilifying the government, the Ba’ath, the army, and everyone responsible for the incessant waves of terror.  Everyone is saying that they have too much of these horrid brutalities.  One of the fruit shopkeepers, a Muslim, an old acquaintance of mine who knows my wife by name, told her sarcastically: ‘Sa’ida, if you don’t find me here next time, don’t be surprised!  Just listen to the radio or contact the executioner of the central prison!  You’ll then certainly know of my whereabouts!  And for your information, Madam, in this damned country the sooner one is hanged the better! A nephew of mine has already been hanged, and another cousin is presently under savage torture in the Palace of the End!’  Wife did not answer but simply said goodbye and left.

Wife also met, in the street, the brother-in-law of one of the Jews hanged today (the Toshiba agent).  He himself was all but hanged, but by sheer miracle was released together with two Jewish brothers from the State security prison, yesterday late in the afternoon.  Wife remarks that she could hardly recognise him.  He is extremely thin, with eyes wide open, looking dead, tired, and walking slowly, staring at people and at shops like a ghost.  In the course of his brief conversation with my wife he said that just after his release from prison yesterday he went to his sister’s house, only to hear from her, when opening the door, that her husband’s name had just been mentioned over the radio as another victim to the gallows.