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'Farhud Definition

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'Farhud - The Farhud (also (Farhoud or Farhood) refers to the pogrom against Jews that took place in Baghdad in June of 1941.

While Jews had lived in Iraq for 2,600 years in relative security and prosperity, anti-Semitic agitation began in the 1930s with the rise of the Nazis in Germany. Both Germany and Fascist Italy were interested in overthrowing British power, and Arab nationalists were interested in finding allies against the British and the Jews, forming a natural alliance of interests. Nazi organizations and paramilitary youth groups were formed and paraded openly in Iraq as in Palestine. The situation of the Baghdad Jewish community became increasingly precarious. 

In April of 1941, the exiled Palestinian leader, the  Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini, had instigated an Axis-supported coup in Iraq together with Raschid Ali al Keilani and officers of the "Golden Square." The British moved to quash the coup, landing soldiers at Basra, mobilizing Assyrian, Greek and Kurdish troops in the north, and eventually sending a force of some 8,000 (Habforce) with an initial force of about 2000 (KingCol) overland through the desert from Palestine, guided by troops of the Arab Legion. Arab Legion troops did not participate in the actual hostilities. The force rescued the besieged Habbaniyeh air base and then put down the revolt. A false rumor engineered by British intelligence convinced Raschid Ali that 100 British tanks were heading for Baghdad. In reality, the British had no armor in Iraq. Raschid Ali, Haj Amin Husseini and the other leaders fled to Persia and from there to Nazi Germany. The coup was all but over. 

However, British and government control of Baghdad was incomplete. Following the escape of the coup leaders, In the wake of the escape of the rebel leadership, Yunis Al-Sab’awi, the Minister of Economics, appointed himself as the Military Governor of Baghdad and ruler of the south central region on May 29.

On  May 30, the Mayor of Baghdad Amin Al-Asima, Arshad Al- Umari, Husam Al-Din Jum’a, and other government officials signed an armistice with the British, declaring an end to the revolt. However, Al-Sabawi had his own agenda. He called the President of the Jewish community and told him that all Jews were being restricted to their homes May 31 to June 2. Then he instructed the Katayib Al-Shabab, a paramilitary youth group, to mark all of the Jewish houses and stores in red paint.

Al-Sabawi then sent a message to the radio station, urging the Arab public to massacre the Jews. The broadcast was prevented, and Al-Sab’awi was sent to the border. He was later arrested and hanged.

Nonetheless, a group of Jewish notables who had gone to greet the returning regent at the airport on June 1 were ambushed and attacked on the way back. on Al Khur bridge by soldiers and civilians. One Jew was killed, and many injured.

Riots and murder spread to Al Rusafa and Abu Sifya. The terror continued until 10 p.m. that evening.  including murder, rape, arson, and looting. On June 2 1941 the riots continued, reinforced by policemen, soldiers and slum dwellers from the Al Karkh quarter. At 5 p.m., a curfew was declared. Persons out after curfew were summarily shot. Official Iraqi reports record 187 killed. Some estimates claim thousands of Jewish dead. Very probably about 400 people were killed and an estimated 2,100 injured. Babies had been disemboweled before their parents’ eyes. Rioters broke into marked Jewish-owned stores, especially those on Shorja Street, looting and destroying. Two thousand homes had been plundered and 2,375 shops had been looted. The property damage was estimated at £3 to £3.5 million. The Jews were not allowed to bury their dead themselves. The dead were collected by the government, and all were buried in one mass grave.

Even in hospital, hospitalized Iraqi soldiers threatened to kill hospitalized Jews, and had to be restrained. Eventually, most Jewish casualties were moved to the Jewish hospital.  At the same time there were many acts of kindness by Muslims who protected and sheltered Jews, and Muslim doctors who took the lead in giving aid to Jewish casualties.   

British troops were stationed just outside Baghdad but did not intervene. The British ambassador, Kinahan Cornwallis, refused to allow British troops to enter the city until the pogrom was over. This may have been due to reluctance to interfere in Iraqi internal affairs, or to fear of getting involved in street fighting, or to reluctance to risk British lives for what were not vital British interests. British records are sealed until 2017

Ami Isseroff

December 6, 2008


Synonyms and alternate spellings: Farhoud, Farhood 

Further Information: Baghdad Jews Farhoud - Baghdad's Krystallnacht, Axis-supported coup in Iraq Pogrom


Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.


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