7 of 8 remaining Jews in Iraq are elderly professional women, living in ‘constant fear’

Special to WorldTribune.com

The number of Jews in Iraq, once at 120,000 strong, has been whittled down to just eight, seven of whom are elderly women who “live in constant fear”.

According to an Iraqi lawmaker, seven of the eight remaining Jews in Iraq are elderly women who reside in Baghdad. None has family and all are educated professionals or businesswomen. The lawmaker told the Hebrew web site nrg that the women possess substantial property across Iraq and “barely manage to protect it from hostile attacks,” including at the hands of the government.

Iraqi Jews in Israel in 1950. /Wikipedia
Iraqi Jews in Israel in 1950. /Wikipedia

“We live in constant fear,” one woman, a 60-year-old dentist in Baghdad, told nrg. “Terror is rampant in the streets. It is a war between the Sunnis, Shi’ites and us; Jews are never in a good situation.”

The lawmaker said he “discovered that the only Jewish institutions in Iraq have been destroyed, including the large synagogues and cemeteries. This is unlike the situation for other minorities, particularly Christians, whose houses were rebuilt and are better kept now than they were during the period of Saddam Hussein’s reign.”

Iraqi Jewry was at its most prominent in the 1950s, and one of the most affluent Jewish populations in the Middle East. Most of Iraq’s Jews were willing to forfeit their Iraqi citizenship and relinquish their property, two preconditions set by the Iraqi government to allow them to emigrate to Israel.

The few thousand who remained were forced to deal with severe anti-semitism. In 1969, nine Jews were hanged in Baghdad’s “Liberation Square” for being “spies.” Later that year, another 50 were executed or died in prison, where they were tortured.

Most of Iraq’s Jews departed either at the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, or the 1991 Gulf War. The Iraqi official told nrg that some of the last eight Jews said they missed Saddam, who had looked out for them and they attributed their wealth to him.