by Max Sawdayee


Thursday July 17, 1969

The Ba’ath Party in Iraq is jubilant today!  It is celebrating its first anniversary, having terminated a year in power.  Jets and helicopters are again wheeling above the city of Baghdad.  Tanks and other armoured vehicles are displaying a festive demonstration before the Presidential Palace.  Fireworks and multicoloured balloons fill the air and the streets of the capital, concentrated mainly near the Palace.

President Al-Bakr, obviously excited and feeling sure of himself, shouts into the radio microphone from his balcony: ‘You great Iraqi people!  In the past year we have won the greatest battle of all time!  We have crushed the enemies of the State!  And I give you my word of honour that in the coming year the country shall be purged and cleaned forever of all traitors and counter-revolutionaries!’

Party Secretary Saddam Hussein vaunts:  ‘Never in history has a political party done so much good for its country as the Ba’ath has done in one year!’  Those who do really care for the good of this unhappy country can only interpret his words as:  Never in history has a party hanged and murdered so many innocent people.

Party council member Salah Umar Al-Ali boasts:  ‘Tens and tens of spies and counter-revolutionaries will be brought to trial and hanged!’

The fact is that while the Party in exaltation rings the bell of ‘victory’ at the termination of a year in power, the nation, exhausted, embittered, bereaved, sadly tolls the knell of doom.  What victory means to the Ba’athist murderers is not economic or social progress, nothing that helps our country advance a small step forward in any sphere of life, but the Party’s triumph over its own opponents, over dissenters, over imaginary enemies, over innocent individuals, or simply over helpless citizens.

Only in Baghdad more than ten prisons overflow with innocent prisoners chewing over their fate, many of them under cruel torture, from which no few are dying every day.  Baghdad alone claims the ‘credit’ of over ten prisons:  al-Fadhiliyya, Al-Rashid Camp Prison, Al-Bayya’a, Al-Fursan, Palace of the End, the Ba’ath Party Headquarters Prison, State Security Prison, the Baghdad Central Prison, Army Intelligence Headquarters Prison, the Defence Ministry Prison, and other minor prisons or detention centres.  And all of them can boast of horrible torture chambers or torture machines.  To say nothing about other cities and villages all over the country.

The Iraqi people, known to be bold, emotional, inflammable, trouble-maker, nervous, turns to be cowed, scared, tired, apprehensive, even frightened.  It winces under the pain of bad expectations.

As to the Jews in this ‘holy feast’ of today, their chances of departure from Iraq are gradually fading away.  Although some Jews continue to go to register in the Passport bureau, the signs we see every day indicate that departure is an evaporating piece of fiction.

And the Ba’ath, as if to confirm once again our doom in this country, has announced that a new spy network has been discovered, including two Jews.  We know quite well whom they mean:  the two brothers, real estate brokers who were arrested a long time ago and since held in the Palace of the End under cruel torture.  One of them has sent a message to his wife through somebody whom he trusts, telling her that he and his brother are suffering horribly, and that they are to face a show trial very soon.  He requests her to ‘do something, please, as both of us shall be hanged as spies’.

Tuesday July 29, 1969

The planned departure of Jews from Iraq is already forgotten.  It is declared definitely dead.

At a special department allocated to Jewish emigration in the Passport bureau, a small piece of paper hangs today, reading:  ‘This bureau is closed for the registration of Jews wishing to leave the country, until further notice.’

The government, and surely every Jew in Iraq, know precisely what that means.  The hope for an exit out of the country was a momentary glow.

It was just a flicker in the dark.

The Jew, dispossessed of everything, including of course his right to a decent political status, faces a further spell of doom.  He must remain in this country as a strange element, an alien, and must bear only what the most unfortunate Iraqis are forced to bear:  humiliation, torture, death.  The only thing that could save him from this jungle once and for all was a quick departure. That was perhaps his last chance of survival.  Now that chance is gone.  The Jew is told, or rather coerced, to stay, witness and go through all the tragedies deriving from a bloody, deadly strife for power, among extremists who have allotted him nothing but the miseries of their strife.

Anyway, something must have gone wrong to stop the planned full-scale emigration process.  It could certainly not be the fault of any of the countries which offered to receive us.  It must have surely been the outcome of a fervent misunderstanding between the government and the army, or between the army and the Party, or anything of such a nature of magnitude.  And the only loser in this misunderstanding is of course the Jew.

And in the resurgence of chaotic turmoil, we hear tonight a big and well-known Jewish ex-contractor, arrested with his brother-in-law some twelve days ago by four army officers, has been torture, killed, and his body dispatched home completely disfigured and mutilated, enveloped in a jute bag, with an order to his family to keep quiet!  The fate of his brother-in-law is yet unknown.