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Over 10,000 virtual candles lit to commemorate 80th anniversary of Farhud massacre

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On June 1-2, 1941, at least 180 Iraqi Jews were killed and hundreds were injured in Baghdad and Basra, Iraq, during a major pogrom on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot

By ILANIT CHERNICK

It was a brutal Holocaust-era massacre that left at least 180 Iraqi Jews dead and scores injured. The day it began was the day that signaled the end of the Iraqi Jewish community, the oldest in the Diaspora.

This week, on June 1, the world will mark 80 years since a major pogrom – named the Farhud – took place in Baghdad and Basra, Iraq. 

In Arabic, Farhud means violent dispossession and on June 1, 1941, while celebrating the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, “a group of Jews in Baghdad were ambushed by an armed Arab mob,” which started just that. 

However, the collective memory of these horrific events is fading and UK philanthropist and businessman David A. Dangoor, who grew up in Baghdad’s Jewish community, took it upon himself to start an important initiative and website called ‘Remember the Farhoud’.

The initiative encourages people around the world – Jewish and non-Jewish – to light a virtual candle in memory of the victims and this terrible pogrom.

Since its inception several weeks ago, over ten thousand people from around the world have taken part in lighting a virtual candle to remember those Jews that were brutally murdered. 

The initiative also gives Facebook users the option to download a special frame and use it on their profile picture.

According to Dangoor, it was created to “spread awareness about this important historic event and pay tribute to the 180 Jews who were murdered, the hundreds injured, and the homes and synagogues burned and looted.”

As the Jewish world grapples with a major wave of antisemitic attacks following the fighting with Israel and Hamas, Dangoor believes “the message of the Farhud is especially important.”

“The Farhud was a tragic event that sounded the death knell for the oldest Jewish Diaspora community, but sadly is not well known around the world.” 

According to Dangoor, “it is vital that the Jewish world and beyond commemorate the Farhud to understand better how to deal with hate, incitement and violence, and prevent such events from happening in the present and future.”

The “Remember the Farhud” website explained that the attacks and rioting during the Farhud went on for two days and although “the exact figure is not known, it is estimated that at least 180 Jews were killed in Baghdad and Basra, perhaps as many as 600, with hundreds more were wounded.” 

During the violence, Jewish women were also gang raped and mutilated, while Jewish shops and homes were looted and then burned to the ground. 

A Jewish Iraqi refugee in 1951.
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“Synagogues were looted and Torah scrolls burned,” the initiative explained. “Afraid to give the dead a proper burial, the corpses were buried in a large mass grave.”

What’s worse is that the Farhud marked “an irrevocable loss for Jewish life in Iraq and paved the way for the dissolution of the 2,600-year-old Jewish community 10 years later.”

Following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Iraqi Jews were forced out of the country due to fears of a second Farhud. 

“Others held on for a few more decades, but today, the historic Jewish community of Iraq, which gave us Ezra the Scribe, the academies of Sura and Pumbedita, and the Babylonian Talmud, is no more,” the initiative pointed out.

Despite these deplorable acts, Dangoor said that “even up to the very end, many Jews and Arabs in Iraq refused to be enemies and lived and worked side by side.” 

“Animosity was largely imported from outside and incitement used as a tool for political goals,” Dangoor stressed, adding that unfortunately we are seeing “many similar worrying signs in the violence in Israel, the US and Europe in recent days.”

To take part in the ‘Remember the Farhud’ initiative go to: https://www.remember-farhud.com/

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