Iraqi Shoutout to Jews of Kurdistan

By | Oct 02, 2008

The Jewish Journal reported earlier this week that Iraq’s first lady, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, wife of President Jalal Talabani, paid a visit to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

The First Lady reminisced about her relationships with Jews of her Kurdish hometown, and, according to the Journal, toured the SWC’s Museum of Tolerance.

Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, the petite first lady of Iraq, briefly recalled the killings and tortures the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein had inflicted on her fellow Kurds.

She added, “In every person’s mind there is a small Saddam. Killing Saddam is nothing, but killing the Saddam in our minds is everything.”

Of course, we at Moment thought of Ariel Sabar, whose piece in the current issue of our Magazine, “Return to Jewish Kurdistan,” describes his trip to the Kurdish village where his father had grown up.

For a year, he had tried to talk me out of it. First, he insisted, the Zakho of his day—the houses, the people—was long gone. Second, I could get a fine picture of the city from interviews with Kurdish Jews who had left a half century ago and were now living in Israel. And third, the height of the insurgency wasn’t the ideal time for a sentimental journey to Iraqby two American Jews, one of whose names sounded a good deal like Ariel Sharon’s…

I was aware of the risks. But with my father’s advancing age, I thought that if we didn’t go that summer, we never would.

I knew that my father saw Zakho as a kind of paradise of religious pluralism, where for hundreds of years Muslims, Jews and Christians had lived together in peace. “What do we have to fear?” I asked, playing to his nostalgia. But in the end, it was something else that moved him.

Read the rest of Sabar’s article here.

Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

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