by Max Sawdayee


Saturday March 15 1969

At about midnight last night my wife and I were taking a walk in the neighbourhood.  Lights were few and everything was quiet.  I noticed that a small van was parked near the door of a Jewish acquaintance of mine, who suspiciously kept rushing from the van, home and back.  Every time, he was taking out bunches of files and books, piling them inside the vehicle.  With my wife, I went near and asked him in undertone whether he needed any help.  He replied, ‘Please, just move away quickly and leave me alone!  And don’t try to ask questions!’  We apologised and hurriedly made home.

Wife hears today from a woman friend of hers that my acquaintance of last night is under constant watch and may be arrested any moment.

Wednesday April 2, 1969

We move to another smaller house today.  It’s amusing, as it takes us only three hours to shift.  Wife and I seem to have got used to such changes.  I laugh over wife’s remark that she has specialised in house-moving, and that next time it will take her only one hour to do the job!

It is true that we haven’t got more than a few pieces of furniture left, but that isn’t important any more.

At uncle’s tonight the Passover reading, which includes the traditional prayer ‘Next year in Jerusalem’, emphasises instead ‘Next year alive’!

It is amusing, but a genuine wish anyway.

Sunday April 6, 1969

In a quick and sudden raid on the market today, ten Jews out of about fifty still working there are rounded up and taken away by a dozen Party agents.

Another blow coming?  Another fresh wave of terror?  Just during the Passover?

This evening we hear that all of those arrested are taken to the Palace of the End.

Monday April 14, 1969

The hanging fever goes on!

In a short communiqué the Baghdad radio speaker announces this morning, ‘Mr Woutwout and the rest of the Revolution Court members were convinced that the four men brought from Basra and tried yesterday morning were spies.  They were all sentenced to death by hanging and executed in the central prison this morning.”

These unfortunate victims are three Muslims and one Christian. 

Neither the hangman nor the gallows remain idle in the central prison.  The hanging obsession has won the upper stage in the anatomy of thinking among the butchers in power and Mr Woutwout.  It appears that they cannot get over it.

The Iraqis are nervous, bored, fed up.  The atmosphere of terror is maddening them. 

A friend tells me that Muslims and Christians attending their business every morning ask one another, ‘Anybody hanged today?’  or, ‘How many were hanged today?’  Or they say, ‘within two or three years our Mr Woutwout will be short of people to sentence to death, as none will remain alive till then in this country of gallows and madmen!’

Yes, the Iraqis begin to realise what is really going on here.  But it may be a little late.  The Ba’ath Party has established itself very well through a reign of terror, and will no doubt continue to adhere to the same policy.

The Party is testing another method in the manufacture of terror and death.  It isn’t infrequent or unusual to hear these days, or to read in a newspaper, that such and such a former minister has been assassinated near his home, or such and such an industrialist has been found dead in his car.  And so on.

That is how the Party is getting rid of its enemies or opponents.

Sunday April 19, 1969

A piece of news both great and incredible for us Jews!

In a brief communiqué in the official weekly gazette this morning, the government announces that within a short period Jews who wish to leave the country will be permitted to do so!

How?  When?  The news, with all its vagueness, is terrific.  Obviously, we take it with mixed feelings.  We’re happy, but sceptical.  Nevertheless, the news spreads like fire.  I for myself go as far as the North Gate, to a district called Bab Al-Mua’dham, to obtain a copy of the gazette from the government printing house there.

In a major unilateral decision, Iran takes under its control the greater part of Shatt Al-Arab, the river separating us from Iran in the south, usually under Iraqi control.  In a counter-measure Iraq chases Iranians out of the country and moves large armies to our frontiers with Iran.

This course of events is very sensitive and may precipitate serious consequences.

Sunday April 27, 1969

In a national referendum in France today, President de Gaulle is defeated.  He resigns late at night.  A great, imposing and highly respected statesman, he could have been very helpful in contributing to the solution of the Middle East conflict if he had wanted.  He could have even prevented the Six-Day War if he had taken a firm stand with Nasser when the latter closed the Straits of Tiran.  Instead, he chose not to act, and then sided with the Arabs.  Unfortunately, his influence in that crucial stage of the conflict was missing.  The situation in this area would have been quite different.

Wednesday April 30, 1969

Terror and death continue.

Two Iraqi soldiers found guilty of ‘spying for Israel’ are executed by a firing squad this morning.

Muslims and Christians, even more than Jews, start to feel the sting of this poisonous regime.   Life has become haunted with death, hanging, execution, spies, traitors, and all such words that belong to the vocabulary of tyrants.

And more than Jews, they are seeking a way out of thus calamitous predicament.  As fast as possible.