by Max Sawdayee


Saturday February 8, 1969

The President of the State, Al-Bakr, in a radio and TV speech to the nation this afternoon, says ‘You great Iraqi people, Iraq has turned into a hell for the spies!  Whoever is a spy, traitor or imperialist lackey will be brought to justice and hanged!  The outside world is bemoaning its beloved dead.  Let all of them bark like dogs!  It won’t help them!’

‘Let all of them bark like dogs!’  These are the words of our President, the President of the State!  Does anyone need a further proof how ‘educated’ our President is, how ‘enlightened’ he is?  And if he wants to pose as a hero with his speech to the nation, everyone knows that the government is in fact disturbed and apprehensive of the sharp reaction by the outside world, while to him heroism still means murdering innocent people. 

And our ‘hero’ has instructed the radio and the press to explain today that Iraq has nothing against anybody provided he isn’t a criminal or a spy.  ‘The door is wide open to anybody, Muslim, Christian or Jew, to leave the country whenever he wishes’.

However, it is as sure as anything that the government will not let the Jews leave.  They are too precious for internal consumption.  He, the radio and TV mean simply to deceive world opinion.

We know that seven or eight more persons will be hanged within the next few days.

Another shock to intimidate the people.

A West German drug company manager and old business friend of mine, arriving in Baghdad, unexpectedly came to see me at home yesterday evening.  He wanted personally to know everything about me and my family.  It was very kind of him indeed, but I admit that I was rather embarrassed by the visit.  The man tried his best to be brief and to cheer me up.  However, realizing that he had put me in a rather awkward situation under the circumstances, he apologised, bade me goodbye and left.  It was saddening.

Tuesday February 11, 1969

In the last three days the government, in an unexpected move, has released all the Jews detained in the central prison before the Ba’ath came to power last July.  Many of the prisoners have been there since the end of the Six-Day War twenty months ago.  However, nothing is said about those arrested by the present regime, who still waste in different unknown places, and most of whom suffer cruel tortures all the time.

Some sixty men, whose fate was vague and hazardous, and who are exhausted, depressed, but ‘lucky’ that they are alive, are back home.  The entire community is happy about their release.  It provides a ray of hope much needed under the present conditions.

But this event is quickly rendered turbid by another.  A newspaper today shows the picture of a Jew alleged to have fled the country to Iran.  The public is warned to furnish the authorities concerned with the information they have about him.  On the other hand, his wife says that he was arrested nearly three weeks ago and taken to the army intelligence headquarters, where she knows he has been under constant torture.

Fighting in the north reaches heavily bloody proportions.  The government is determined to strike a paralyzing blow at the Kurds, to destroy their very will to fight, once and for all.  Big formations of Mig-17’s and -21’s are detailed to do the job.  One Mig 17 is said to have already been shot down by the Kurds.  It is very doubtful whether this minority, brave fighters in mountainous strongholds, will give in.  It cannot afford to, because if it does, it is sure that the blood of its men, women and children will form a swimming pool for our Iraqi soldiers.  The Kurds have always fought with valour, and valour will be their ally this time as well.

Thursday February 20, 1969

The gallows and the Liberation Square again!  Baghdadis living in the South Gate and south Baghdad must pass near the bodies of the hanged on their way to business this morning. Six Muslims and two Christians are the victims.  Jews are missing this time.

The President of the ‘Revolution Court’, the Hangman of Baghdad as he is called today by Iraqis – Ali Hadi Woutwout – seems to have specialised in his job.  In a very quick, brief trial, shown on TV last night, he sent eight human beings to death, four civilians by hanging and four soldiers by facing a firing squad.  But all were nevertheless made to hang in mid-air in the notorious ‘Liberation [From Life] Square’, as it is commonly nicknamed by fun-loving Iraqis. 

It is most deplorable that this country is sinking into darkness, receding many centuries back.  The butchers in power must have been influenced by H.G. Wells’ ‘Time Machine’.  Or have they become mad?!

Anyway, the mobs flooding the Liberation Square today do not vie with the huge numbers that choked the Square on January 27th.  They aren’t as joyful and exuberant either.  Staring at the suspended bodies, four of which are still bleeding from rifle shots, the spectators begin to doubt the future.  The frame-up allegations about spying must certainly have been false.  Moreover, now that the government has succeeded in intimidating the people by using Jews as the principal scapegoat, it has progressed farther.  It is terrorizing them by settling accounts with non-Jews as well, opponents of the regime, or enemies of certain men in power.  And the hangings of today may have brought this unlucky people down to earth.

Wednesday February 26, 1969

Israel’s Premier Levi Eshkol is dead.  I feel sad about that.  This man did his utmost to avoid war with his neighbours.  He was prepared to do anything for peace with the Arabs.  But he couldn’t.  They chose war, and dragged his country into it.  And he died without realizing his wish, without achieving peace.

Educated people here are deeply concerned about what is going on in Iraq.  Physicians, writers, university professors, industrialists, celebrated personalities, and highly respected Shi’a religious leaders condemn almost openly the barbaric policy of the government in general and of the Ba’ath Party in particular.  They dismiss the allegations of the ‘Revolution Court’, they dismiss the frame-up charges against innocent men, and reject altogether the ’justice’ of the death sentences and the manner the so-called spies are exhibited hanged in the most popular square in the country.

The highly educated, venerable and influential Al-Imam Sheikh Muhsin Al-Hakim, the spiritual head of the Shi’a sect in Iraq, in a letter to the President of the State yesterday, condemns the incorrect measures taken, objects to the continuation, and demands that ‘people in prisons should return home to their wives and children’.  He requests the immediate release of former popular Prime Minister Al-Bazzaz, now sick but supposed to be dragged to trial soon.  It is said that this honourable man whom everyone respects, including of course the Jews, sent a similar letter to the President on the evening of January 27th last, the day of the Jewish mass hanging.  Its contents are not yet disclosed, but one can guess the gist of what he wrote, hoping he might be lent a listening ear.

Tuesday March 4, 1969

The Purim feast turns into a race against death.  A government spokesman, in a statement over the radio last night, said, ‘Iraq will hang anybody standing in its way!   Spies, agents and counter-revolutionaries shall all be hanged!’  We know for sure that the government intends to start within two or three days the trial of four Jewish university students, still under torture (in prison).  However, something unexpected happens today.  The Soviet Ambassador intervenes directly and strongly with President Al-Bakr asking him to halt these trials. Why?  Nobody knows yet.  Presumably the negative effect they are having on the people in general isn’t healthy.  Astonishingly enough, the Ambassador may have very well succeeded in his appeal.

In the last three days two Jews have been taken away by Party agents and are confirmed to be now held in the late Crown Prince Abdul Ilah Palace, which has been turned into a very big prison with horrible torture machines, and renamed the Palace of the End.  (Reference is to July 14, 1958, when King Faisal II and his Crown Prince Abdul Ilah met their horrid end in the Palace).

The government is inclined to embark on a fast nationalization policy.  The last concerns to be nationalised are two soft drinks bottling companies, one shoe factory, two soap factories, and a big shirts factory.  It is most doubtful whether the government will compensate the owners.  On the contrary, some of them are in jail and might be under all sorts of torture.  Others are already murdered.

Monday March 10, 1969

Large-scale shooting continues in the Suez Canal zone.  Jets and heavy guns in large quantities are employed by both sides.  Nasser seems determined to go on with his war of attrition till the end, while Israel doesn’t appear ready to grant any major concession for the time being.  In the course of last night’s hostilities the Egyptian Chief of Staff, Major General Abdul Muni’m Riadh was killed while inspecting his troops on the Egyptian side of the Canal.

Here, two Jewish commission agents, brothers who are still working, have heard from someone that they are under constant watch by Party agents, and that they may be taken any moment to the Palace of the End, where most arrested Jews and tens of Muslims and Christians are being held and tortured.  The two brothers have begged an old friend of theirs who has an influential position in the State security headquarters to have them arrested and detained in the security prison before they can be dragged by Party men to the Palace of the End! Last night I heard that their request had been complied with!  They were arrested by orders of their friend, and their wives feel happy about it!!  This is a new, amusing phenomenon in the history of arrest and detention in this country!