Kurdish Jews in the remote villages of Kurdistan in Iraq have been reduced to feudal slavery, report to the Alliance Israelite Universelle here declares.
Removed from general government authority, the Kurdish Jews have been reduced to the state of feudal slaves, who are the possession of their rich masters, the Kurdish Aghas. In many cases the Jews, principally farmers and artisans, have actually been sold as chattels by their masters.
In theory they are free and are occupied as weavers, dyers, farmers and hawkers. Theoretically they can travel from one village to another, but actually they can only do this under the protection of the Aghas. In return for this “protection” they are compelled to give him free labor on certain days and to turn in a portion of their earnings to their “protector.” In addition they must pay the customary tithes and taxes imposed by the Iraq government.
NOT PROTECTED LEGALLY
They have no legal protection whatsoever. If a Kurdish Jew manages to escape, his goods are confiscated, for by law he is not allowed to sell his property. The Agha also takes charge of marriage settlements, receiving half the dowry. Jewish girls have been forced to marry Moslems and to embrace the Mohammedan faith. The Agha also acts as judge and can condemn those accused to death.
By these means the Jews of the region have been reduced to a state of incredible ignorance, the report states. Illiteracy is general and they have no contact whatever with the Jewish religon or with outside Jewish groups. On rare occasions a rabbi visits the community. While the Jews are not debarred from observing the Sabbath, few make any distinction between week days and Saturday.
Governmental help for the Kurdish Jews is out of the question, the report points out, since the