Will the Jewish Archive Return to Iraq?

By Saad Salloum for Al Monitor. Any opinions here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

The US State Department announced Sept. 10 that the United States would return the Iraqi Jewish archive to Iraq next year. The archive had been shipped to the United States in 2003, after American troops saved it from destruction by water leaking into the cellars of the Iraqi General Intelligence Service building in Baghdad.

The archive includes tens of thousands of institutional documents, books, religious manuscripts, photographs and personal documents of Iraqi Jews.

Khedr al-Bussoon — a Tel Aviv-based writer, Iraqi Jewish rights activist and son of the prominent journalist Seleim al-Bussoon, who left Iraq with his family in 1973 under Baathist pressure — explained that security agencies and Baathist officials seized the material in the archive in the 1970s and 1980s.

There are personal files and correspondence between the Frank Iny and Shamash schools during the mid-1970s, when the Baathist government nationalized them and renamed them Nizamitta. Also in the archive are documents from synagogues, including from the Meir Taweig Synagogue, in eastern Baghdad’s Batawin district, and books — more than 2,700 according to Bussoon — left behind in Baghdad by Jews who had fled.

Some of the homes of the departed Jews still stand in parts of Baghdad, including in Batawin, once one of the most heavily Jewish neighborhoods in the city, as do some shrines to Jewish prophets and synagogues in the southern provinces.

According to an agreement with the Iraqi government, the archive was scheduled to be returned to Iraq in 2014. When the time came, however, the agreement was revised for reasons related to Iraq’s readiness to preserve the archive after its return. The Baghdad government apparently was in no condition or position to provide proper upkeep. The war against the Islamic State, plus the decrease in world oil prices had contributed to an economic crisis.

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