NEW YORK (May. 3)
According to statements made today by escapees from Iraq and Syria at a meeting held by the Committee of Concern and sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, a new wave of terror against Jews has begun in Syria and Iraq. Gen Lucius Clay, U.S. Army, Ret., chaired the meeting during which the three men and one woman described incidents of harassment, torture, rape and murder which, they said, are becoming commonplace in both countries.
The four, who have assumed false identities to protect their relatives and friends from reprisals, described their individual situations, and the general atmosphere of fear and uncertainty pervading both communities.
The Iraqi Jew, who described himself as “a highly placed professional” in his native country, escaped from Iraq a few months ago. He described successive waves of terror which have engulfed the Jewish community of Iraq since the outbreak of the Six-Day War. He offered no reason for the recent hardening of the government’s attitude toward the 500 Jews remaining in Iraq which had a Jewish community of 110,000 before the massive emigration to Israel began in the 1950s.
He implied that the current round-ups and killings of Jews may, have economic motivations since many of the victims own businesses or property. According to the informant, Iraqi newspapers publish pictures of “missing” Jews, and some time later when the “missing” person fails to appear, his property is confiscated and his possessions are sold at auction. It is assumed by the Jewish community, he said, that the published pictures are of individuals already imprisoned or murdered.
It was noted at, the press conference that the Iraqi government is having new difficulties with the Kurds and faces economic and political problems in its relations with some countries. It is feared that the Jews are being used as scapegoats to distract public attention.
The young escapees spoke of arbitrary arrests, police surveillance, travel and economic restrictions and recent threats of murder and imprisonment. One of them noted that kindergarten children are taught that Jews are no good and should be eliminated. “It is not Zionism that they are taught to hate,” he said “but Jews.” All appealed for world support in their quest for freedom for the Syrian Jewish community and the Jews in Iraq.