LONDON (Jul. 24)
Members of the House of Commons today called upon the British government to see to it that before Iraq is admitted to the League of Nations as an independent state it should give guarantees of fair play and protection for its national minorities. The question of Iraquian minorities created a long and heated discussion during the debate on the Middle East vote.
Replying to the apprehensions voiced by G. L. M. Mandar, Liberal, Sir Samuel Hoare, Conservative and other members, Dr. Drummond Shiels, undersecretary of state for the Colonies, said that the position of the Jewish minority in Iraq is the best example of Iraq’s fair treatment to its minorities because none of the 88,000 Jews in Iraq are complaining of discrimination against them.
He also pointed out that the House knew that in countries where Jews are badly treated there was a great desire to go to Palestine, but no such desire was evinced by the Jews of Iraq who are spread all over the country and appear to be happy and contented.
Mandar declared that he hoped before Iraq was admitted to the League of Nations it would lay down guarantees of fair play for its national minorities and that these guarantees would be carried out in the daily lives of those minorities residing in Iraq.
NOT TO DISCRIMINATE
Sir Samuel Hoare demanded that Dr. Shiels should state whether the British government had made it clear to Iraq that no discrimination against national minorities should be practiced in the future when Iraq is admitted to the League of Nations. Reviewing minority questions in the East recalled the anti-Jewish outbreaks in Palestine two years ago, Sir Samuel insisted that Iraq should make a categoric declaration before the Assembly of the League of Nations guaranteeing fair treatment for its minorities. He pointed out that the Kurds, Assyrians, Yezids and other national minorities were not well treated, and that such a declaration on the part of the Iraquian government would make it easier for Iraq to be admitted to the League of Nations.
Iraq, like Palestine, was freed from the Turks by the World War and was recognized as an independent state by the Allies, to be placed, however, under a mandate which was subsequently awarded to Great Britain. By the terms of the Anglo-Iraq treaty, ratified last November, England grants Iraq her independence, relinquishes its mandate and agrees to withdraw British troops after five years. The treaty becomes operative when Iraq enters the League of Nations.
When the Anglo-Iraq treaty was ratified Iraquian minorities such as the Kurds and Assyrians manifested antagonism to it, fearing that the pact would give the Arabs unlimited powers. The Kurds have carried their protest to the League of Nations and at the same time guerrilla bands of Kurdish chieftain have organized against the Iraquian government.
The Jews of Iraq are of two kinds, the native Iraqui and the Persian-Kurd stock. The Kurdish Jews are very Orthodox and almost all of them can speak Hebrew. They are mostly farmers and handicraftsmen and live in the Kurdish villages. They have a great attachment for Palestine and many of them, as a matter of fact, emigrated to the Holy Land.
The Jews of Bagdad, the Iraquian capital, have a kehillah, to which everybody, Orthodox as well as free-thinker, belongs. Out of a tax on kosher meat this Kehillah supports Jewish schools, which are attended by 7,200 pupils, dressmaking schools, which have more than 1,000 girl pupils, two hospitals, a clinic and several other institutions.
Almost 90 percent of the Jews of Bagdad are in business. Though industrially they play an important role in the country, Iraquian Jews have a smaller influence in politics than the Christians of the country who are less numerous than the Jews. The Jews have 5 members in Parliament, 2 from Bagdad and 1 each from Bethra, Mosul and Karkak and one senator.
The Jews of Iraq claim that their ancestors came here from Persia hundreds of years ago, some even claiming that they have been living there from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, who destroyed the first Temple.