Read: Iraq, 1900 to 1950



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... and Turkomans—made little history. The first-mentioned were accepted as equals in ‘Iraqi society and administration as completely as any non-Muslim could expect; and when the announcement of British withdrawal led in 1929 to some heart-searching among the timorous, the heads of the communities had no difficulty in reassuring their flocks and urging continued loyalty to their King. A ministerial tour among them in 1931 led to great cordiality and the official thanks of the Apostolic Delegate. It was found not too difficult in 1930 to draft and pass into law new statutes for some of these Christian minorities, defining the powers of their priest-hoods and councils. The measure of self-management which they accepted was bound, in a modern State, to fall far short of old millet autarchy.

The tiny community of inoffensive Baha’is in Baghdad was in these years the victim of an episode—that of the long-famous case of the Baha’i Houses—sadly destructive of confidence in ‘Iraqi justice. They had begun in the middle ‘twenties to repair their properties in the city. Fanatical Shi’i neighbours resisted this, petitioned the King and obtained from him, although the case was still sub judice in the Baghdad Peace Court (which later gave judgement for the Baha’is), a direct order for the eviction of the owners and confiscation of the keys. This action and the subsequent majority verdict of the Court of Appeal in favour of the Shi’i aggressors represented to objective observers an apparent overruling of justice by the rancours of local politics. It was ventilated at Geneva and was the subject of repeated protest by the High Commissioner, but in vain. The case, in itself petty and embarrassing enough to the ‘Iraqi authorities, was a sinister warning to other non-Muslim elements.

The unselfconscious Turkomans of Kirkuk, Kifri, and their villages made no efforts to emerge from a useful and honest obscurity; they created no problems since the Mosul settlement, and were represented in ‘Iraqi officialdom far beyond their numerical proportion. The Jews were still compact, assiduous, self-sufficient, and unambitious. They had had their outstanding Finance Minister, kept their place in the Government offices, dominated many of the markets, owned property, and supported their own schools and hospitals; and when ‘Iraq approached independence, were not so foolish as to compromise their future by open protest. The art of living in ‘Iraq, and surviving bad times, was no new one to them. It was true that ‘Iraqi, like all Arab, feeling was strong against the Zionist movement in Palestine -- ugly and violent street demonstrations, accompanied by the usually marshalled schoolboys and armed roughs, greeted Sir Alfred Mon... [name cut off by scanner. -J.W.] when he visited Baghdad on business in February 1928 and in the


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year following demonstrations in the mosques and city, a two minute silence in Parliament, black-edged newspapers, and telegrams to London marked ‘Iraqi disapproval of the ‘pro-Jewish’ policy of Great Britain. But the day when these feelings would descend with personal violence on the heads of the timid and law-abiding Baghdadi Jews, anxious only to find a secure place in the State and to dissociate themselves from Zionism, lay still some years ahead.

The Yazidis, no longer eminent as of old either as harriers or as harried in tribal warfare, turned to restlessness towards the end of this period through the heedless and dissolute ways of their Mir, Sa’id Bey. He was accused of misusing the revenues and neglecting the shrine of Shaykh ‘Adi and its pilgrims. A meeting of the Yazidi notables was held in Mosul in 1931, attended by the High Commissioner. Government attempted to produce a satisfactory statute for the outlandish community; but it proved intractable, and the Yazidi elders reported after full deliberation that no way could be devised to change their Mir except assassination. Rival Mirs nevertheless claimed support, and faction tore their settlements in the Mosul plain and Sinjar, to be settled only by time, intrigue, and murder.

The Kurds were a far more formidable minority. Added to the other elements making for separatism—those of locality, character, culture, and tradition—their specific nationalism, which flourished in a restricted circle centred in Sulaymaniya town, had survived their incorporation in the ‘Iraq State, the failure of successive campaigns, the stern suppression of their Kurdish brothers in Turkey and Persia, and even their own profound disunion. The ‘Iraq Government had made meanwhile a not discreditable effort to honour in their favour the League of Nations recommendations of 1925. They were given a generous share of Government appointments, a minister in the Baghdad Cabinet, and their quota of Deputies delighted to serve as such. Nevertheless, a petition submitted by some of the last-mentioned in 1929, asking for increased expenditure in Kurdistan and the formation of an all-Kurdish four-liwa province of their own, showed their determination to maintain all of their special claims; nor did their spokesmen forget that the twenty-year prolongation of the Anglo-’Iraq Treaty of 1922–a specific condition of the Mosul settlement—was largely on their account. ...

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