by Max Sawdayee


Monday January 27, 1969

One o’clock in the afternoon

A Helpless Woman

My wife and I watch how many people continue to stream even at this hour of the afternoon, in the direction of the Liberation Square.  They emerge from every house in the vicinity, from every corner of adjacent streets, jubilantly rushing to the scene of the gallows in order to revel with their own eyes the sight of those ‘spies’ hanged in the immense square.

The car of a distant Muslim neighbour halts near our house.  The driver, a Muslim, excitedly happy, leaves the car and comes to tell us his tale.

He says that at two o’clock in the morning he was already at the Liberation Square.  We saw prisoners from the central prison, with a bunch of soldiers, were busy there fixing the installation of the gallows, when suddenly a big white prison pick-up arrived.  It stopped not far from him.  The door opened and corpses were thrown out from inside by army officers.  A Jewish woman came running from somewhere and stood close to the pick-up.  But she immediately turned mad.  She cried hysterically and began to pull savagely at her hair.  She approached one of the dead and began to shower it with kisses, crying more and more hysterically.  The woman had thought that the execution would take place in the square itself, and came hurriedly to bid her 18-year old so a last farewell.  Soon about twenty men, including our neighbour’s driver who is telling us this story, ran to her and started kicking her fiercely on the back, on the belly, on the legs, everywhere, shouting, ‘Ah, the traitor’s mother! Mother of a spy! Ah, the prostitute!’ They kept kicking and beating her until she let loose the body of her beloved son and fell unconscious.  Later on three army officers came and dragged her away from the square.

Wife, shaken, can’t listen any more.  We take leave from this ‘human being’ who no doubt considers his role in the barbaric ritual a heroic deed. 

Monday Night, January 27, 1969

Our information media exultantly announce that tonight it is all over.  ‘The first batch of spies is finished with!’

Thirteen innocent men have paid with their lives, to gratify the Ba’athist Party’s lust for power.  The stress has been laid on Jews, so that the people may accept it, because this is the only way for the Party to fight Israel and ‘win’, and at the same time to consolidate a tyrannical regime.

Thirteen unhappy men have been picked up, mostly at random, to provide scapegoats for the stage of this human tragedy.

Today, thirteen families, Jewish, Muslim and Christian have been broken, smashed.  Thirteen homes have been laid desolate.  Wives, mothers and fathers have been bereaved.  Many children have been dispossessed of paternal care and love, and left orphans.  Those families and homes have been robbed of their loved ones for ever, and their hopes for a long time to come.

Those that value human sentiment, whether in Iraq or anywhere else, are distressed tonight.  Prayers and services are held in many homes, synagogues and churches for the souls of those victims who have fallen prey to our despots’ thirst for power.  They were wronged.  They shall not be forgotten.

And the forces of darkness shall topple at the end.  They shall not thrive. 

The forces of light must ultimately triumph.

Monday, Midnight,

Commentary on the Mass Hanging and Conclusion

The Party in power here, the Ba’ath, is that same extremist, cold-blooded clique which held the reins of government early in 1963.  After nine months of disorder, while the Party frivolously wasted State money and property, it was overthrown by the Nationalists and the army.  It remained out of power for more than four years, during which its major concern was ‘what is to be done’ in order to resume power and stay in it.

And when it did resume power in the coup of July 17, 1968, and after throwing out its co-partners in the coup a little later, it had ‘learnt’ what to do. 

Terror and blood are its tools this time, and with these tools they are manipulating the Iraqi people.  Yet that isn’t so easy.  The Iraqis are hot-headed, courageous, extremely sensitive.  It was therefore necessary for the Ba’athists to ‘find’ spies, agents and fifth columnists, especially among Jews who are a most convenient scapegoat at a time when Iraq is at war with Israel.  This patent method would scare the Iraqis very well, and cow them into submission, considering that a substantial number of elements in the country would welcome the method and lend it their full support as long as  Jews and a number of other helpless persons, would be the victims.

Furthermore, if the Party could use the Jew as the principal scapegoat, why not?  Why infuriate the Muslim or Christian world?  Why not take the easier way and get rid of as many Jews as possible, plus a few Muslims and Christians with whom there is an account to settle?

The end justifies the means.  That’s the Party slogan, as it has ever been with every tyrannical rule throughout history.  Since 1963 its henchmen seem to have studied meticulously the craft of despotism and the industry of violence.  They seem to have taken Nazism as their guide.  Today’s massacre is one of its fruits.

As for the Jews here… Well, the show must go on.  What alternative do they have?  The government knows quite well that we could do nothing wrong against the country even if we wished to. It knows that our movement from and to the capital is under rigid restrictions, that contacts with foreigners are forbidden us, that our correspondence with relatives abroad is strictly limited and thoroughly censored, that our financial situation is not enviable, that our property is confiscated or frozen.  Each of us is ‘granted’ a yellow piece of card, our so-called identity card to certify our Iraqi citizenship – with the word ‘Jewish’ conspicuously qualifying our religion.

We are being persecuted and terrorised, for no fault other than being Jews.  This is a systematic extermination.

Now, more than ever, a way out is essential and urgent.

Tuesday January 28, 1969

While the Pope, Nixon, Wilson, Trudeau, Eshkol, Poher, Cassin, Sartre and many others, heads of states, prime ministers, ministers, scientists, writers, artists and humanitarians all over the world vehemently condemn the acts of barbarism perpetrated by our government, the editor of ‘Al-Thawra’ (The Revolution) newspaper, Hassan Al-Alawi, in his editorial this morning, cynically, insolently and joyfully gives a full report on how ‘those sub-humans were executed’.  Here is a summary of what he says:

‘At a quarter to eleven on Sunday night I was in the special execution court of the central prison, with the Revolution Court Attorney, the Court staff, an army doctor and many high military officers, all of us passionately enthusiastic, impatiently looking at our watches nearing eleven, zero-hour, when at long lat the spies appeared, dragged out of their death cells by special guards, hands and legs heavy with iron chains, coming along for the call.  Unshaven, dishevelled, haggard, eyes wide open, all could hardly believe they would be hanged.

‘After the call, four of them were rushed to a prison car and despatched to Basra, where they should be executed, in a special military plane.

‘The rest, eight Jews and one Christian, were ordered to sit on the ground.

‘When the doctor started to give them special dizzying injections, all cried, pleading innocence and begged mercy from the Court Attorney.  One of them, Fouad Gabbay, shouted ‘You can’t kill us!  We’re innocent!  We are innocent!  I have five children!’ And when he was given the injection in his arm, he shouted, ’You murderers!  You shall pay for it!”

‘Later on it was amusing, even funny, seeing all those sub-humans dizzy, trying to utter something but incapable of it, looking at us like mad, when the guards took their chains off and pushed them one after the other right up to the gallows.’

To be sure, such sadists as our editor Al-Alawi, find nothing more amusing to speak about this morning.

And while huge demonstrations are taking place before Iraqi embassies the world over, by freedom- and justice-loving people, protesting the murder campaign which has dragged our country down to abysmal darkness, here Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader, finds it necessarily polite to go personally to the Presidential Palace to present his sincere congratulations to the Preside of the State ‘for his great deed’.

At the same time, the President is busy this morning receiving all army division commanders to accept their congratulations.  Cables from high military officers and government officials are pouring into the Presidential Palace to confirm their loyalty to the President and the Party.

Today, when representatives of the Jewish community go to receive the corpses of the hanged from the central prison, they find an additional body among them.  It is that of the Jew killed by the army early in September last.  And I the cemetery, during the brief burial rites for the dead, big demonstrations are held by Muslims from the vicinity, cursing the ‘spies’ and throwing stones at the burial attendants.