Abdullah Dangoor

Abdullah - Tape 2

[00:00:01] Bea: This is tape two. We're conducting interview with mister Abdullah Dangoor. Mr. Dangoor, we were talking about how it was getting difficult for the Jews in Baghdad, maybe we can go back a little bit to the early '50's, where you said many people were leaving. What happened to you and why were you deciding to stay at that time?

[00:00:27] Abdullah: Those who left the country...either they were in difficulties...they were not comfortable where they were. I must say that we were very comfortable. Part of the community was very comfortable. And we saw no reason to leave. [00:00:59] Certainly we were not thinking of going to Israel. It might seem unpatriotic but we were hearing about so many difficulties at the time, people living in tents. So there was no point to go and increase their burdens. [00:01:27] And as I said, we must be frank about it, we were very comfortable and that was our country. And that was what we know. Even if we decided to go e had to find out where to go. [00:01:54] Of course, some of us decided to go to America, many of us went to America. Many of us went to Canada, because they have relatives there and they knew where they were going. As I said, we stayed after this law of the...nationality came out and people starting to leave. [00:02:32] We remained in the country for about six, seven years. Eight years. And, and then we had to leave. And we saw ourselves outside...Baghdad at the time and there there was a new ruling that all those who are outside, abroad, must come back within certain time, six months. If they don't come...nationality will be taken away. [00:03:19] At the time we still had our nationality. We still had out passports. And once, twice we sent medical reports. They knew, and we knew, they were not true. There was nothing wrong with us. [00:03:46] But they had to accept it, the medical reports. And because of the medical reports we had to stay.

[00:03:55] Bea: Where were you?

[00:03:57] Abdullah: We were in London at the time. We were in London and in the end...there was no point in sending the medical report because we knew it wouldn't be accepted and we were not going back in any case. [00:04:20] And I remember once I was...walking in the street and a friend of ours saw me and said "I saw your, your name in the newspaper. They have taken away your [?] nationality." So that's how I heard about it. [00:04:44] And the thing is, when I wrote to the authorities here to issue me with a "laissez-passer" the first thing they asked "Please send us your old passport." And, and the certificate from the embassy saying that we are not giving a passport to Mr. Dangoor. [00:05:16] I thought, I told them we can't go to the embassy such a request. In the end they issued us with a laissez-passer which we used it for a number of years.

[00:05:32] Bea: Who issued the laissez-passer?

[00:05:36] Abdullah: The authorities here. They do it. It's not different to the passport only it is smaller.

[00:05:44] Bea: Is it a stateless, was it a stateless passport?

[00:05:49] Abdullah: No. It doesn't say stateless because they say nationality of the bearer or this document is Iraqi. They say we are Iraqis. They didn't recognise that we had no nationality. But what's the use? They didn't recognize it but the Iraqis recognized it...not Iraqis.

[00:06:18] Bea: Can we perhaps let's go back when you were leaving. Can you tell me a little more about when you actually left Baghdad?

[00:06:29] Abdullah: Well, as I said, we left Baghdad not with the intention of not coming back. First of all we went to Beirut...Lebanon...for the summer. We usually go out in the summer, for the summer. We go to the mountains of Lebanon. We went there for the summer. [00:07:00] The summer ended so we started debating with ourselves. We go back, we don't go back. We asked our parents "Shall we come back?". They said no. Stay where you are now, it's better not to come back.

[00:07:24] So we stayed in Lebanon for the season and for another six months and...in the end we couldn't stay there indefinitely. The children were at school but they can't be at that school all the time they must to a higher school. It was difficult to be there all the time. [00:07:52] So I went to the British embassy in Beirut and I asked them for a passport. And...what...funny with what's happening now with the NHS and all that. The first condition that they embassy put for giving us a visa to this country was not to use the, the hospitals or the medical facilities who are in this country...freely. [00:08:42] Of course we agreed. And the visa came, I went first to London, I arranged things and came back to Beirut and we left Beirut with the intention of not coming back...to Iraq. We came to this country. [00:09:18] They were not very...easy here with the question of [inaudible] staying longer and, again, we had to apply every six months or every three months, I don't remember now.

[00:09:42] In the end they were good. They gave us, they stamped this laissez-passer. We don't have to report every three months and don't have to apply for renewal of the visa. We can stay here indefinitely an we can even engage in trade and take jobs. [00:10:12] This was not allowed before. And here we are now. The family came they went to school, their English was not so good, the first year they managed but afterwards they excelled in their school, they excelled in their sport and it was easy for them to enter university. [00:10:55] No problem.

[00:10:56] Bea: And what was it like for you to start here in Brittan?

[00:11:05] Abdullah: It depends on the circumstance of each person. [00:11:15] We are a cosmopolitan race. We are prepared for everything so it was not...very difficult in any way.

[00:11:35] Bea: Could you continue your export-import business or what, what did you do professionally?

[00:11:40] Abdullah: No...no we had to change the venue because the things that you could export from Iraq they were not available here for export. And they use [?]... the things that you used to import to Iraq they don't it need it here or they have themselves. [00:12:17] But here we started with a property and I went to Spain at the recommendation of a friend. They said "Go to Spain and see for yourself. I think there's a good opportunity there now." I went to Spain and at the very beginning of when things started to develop there. [00:12:52] And...I used to commute between London and Madrid and after Madrid we had some development in the Balearic Islands. Mainly in Ibiza. [00:13:18] And for a long time I stayed in this business till I retired. Till I semi-retired. Somehow we don't want to retire completely. It's not in the blood.

[00:13:46] Bea: But when you left Baghdad were you able to take some things? Because you said you went on holidays but did you have to leave most things behind?

[00:13:56] Abdullah: Yes, I could. But after we joined my father left with my mother. He had to leave a good part which he couldn't take because it need to be sold, it needed to be...and afterward too and for the money to be transferred, it was difficult, very difficult. [00:14:26] And they have a department. They established a department in the government for all, for the property of all the Jews who, whose nationality was...confiscated let's say. It was really confiscated their nationality. And all their property became available there in books for inspection. [00:15:04] And they used to come, some inspectors I think from America or from United Nations, every other year to look at the books. Well...to look at the books...it was still there. The property was still there. Till now we have property of my father's in these books. [00:15:37] It was a huge department that dealt with these properties. And once there was a suggestion that they would be, in the end of the day they will be a barter, exchange, a change rather between these properties and the properties of the Arabs that were occupied by the Israelis. [00:16:15] But this thing, I think the, the Israelis were not very enthusiastic about. It was dropped.

[00:16:32] Bea: What do you feel about these properties? What do you think should happen?

[00:16:39] Abdullah: No, what's going to happen, it will...now we don't even think about it. We don't think about it. It's...I don't know how they are going to liquidate it or they liquidated it or they can do all sorts of things. [00:17:00] There was a time when we were very interested to hear what's happening or but now we gave up. Let them take it.

[00:17:19] Bea: What was it like for you to be here, and obviously you left your sister and parents behind? Could you be in touch with them from England or was it difficult?

[00:17:31] Abdullah: No it was not difficult at all. We, as I said, we travelled freely, we could, we could travel and they themselves could travel any day. So...besides, we were not children. We were not there to test our parents in that way. Especially when we knew we are going to see them whenever they decided to come. They came in the end and they were together. [00:18:09] No, we didn't feel it.

[00:18:12] Bea: What happened to your other siblings?

[00:18:16] Abdullah: No we all came. My brothers, my sisters, everyone in its own way, own way. There they came with their families. At the end the whole community came here. Except a few who went to Canada. I think the majority came here.

[00:18:55] Bea: And when you came was there already other family in London?

[00:18:59] Abdullah: Oh yes, yes, yes, yes. Of course. We had, my sister was here. My cousins were here. I said, we are a cosmopolitan race. They were here and they are still here. Well...not all of them. Not all who came are still here, still with us. But then, it's a long time since we came.

[00:19:47] Bea: You came with your wife and your children. Can you tell us a little bit when you got married?

[00:19:55] Abdullah: Not in London. I got married in Baghdad, not in London.

[00:20:06] Bea: And what was your wife's background?

[00:20:10] Abdullah: It the same as anybody's background at that time. The same as our background. That's how you marry in Baghdad. [00:20:27] You...marry someone of the same background.

[00:20:38] Bea: Was it arranged?

[00:20:45] Abdullah: No. Not arranged but suggested. Arranged is a heavier word. And because we mix with the, because of our clubs, it's important we had three clubs because the way we managed our social life in Baghdad, in our clubs. [00:21:25] I wasn't strange to my wife she wasn't stranger to me.

[00:21:36] Bea: So that was...

[00:21:39] Abdullah: No I mean, this question of the clubs, it did a lot. We were not confined in our homes. However much we go out or...but you needed more active social life. And we had it with the clubs that we had. [00:22:06] We had...very comfortable social life. So much so that we were envied by the, by the Muslims for example. Which they don't have a similar thing.

[00:22:30] Bea: So one of the functions of the clubs was for young people to meet?

[00:22:35] Abdullah: hey could meet if they liked, yes. I mean, it wasn't established for them. It was, they were family clubs let's say. And if marriage would result out of these meetings or...so much the better. But they were family clubs. With a very nice atmosphere.

[00:23:14] Bea: You were the oldest of your siblings. Did you have to wait for your sister to be married first or...?

[00:23:20] Abdullah: No. No.

[00:23:28] Bea: And after you got married, did you stay in the house with your parents or did you move somewhere else?

[00:23:44] Abdullah: We had the house, it was a large house on the river. And I built my own house next to it. And...[00:24:09] And another house next to their house, next to my parent's house was bought by my brother, my other brother. So we had three houses. But them when the time came, when it was finished and I wanted to move...first of all, [00:24:38] It was very difficult times. It was not the time to go and furnish again with what was happening around us. And we didn't move. My parents insisted that we stay and at that time the British embassy telephoned us and said : [00:25:17] "The military [inaudible] would like your house. Are you prepared to let it for him?" And as a matter of fact we thought it was a...godsend. It's better to have someone from the embassy next to us. An we said yes. And we let it to him. [00:25:43] And he stayed till things got much better. And one day I telephoned and decided I wanted back my house. And they said yes immediately. And they left. [00:26:07] By the time they left I could sell the other...with what I had in real property or goods because that was, at the time when we went to Lebanon, Beirut and we sold it. It was a pity.

[00:26:37] It was...whatever we say, it was our country. We used to tell the Muslim friends, we used to tell them "We are here before you. We have more right than you have." [00:27:06] But this is...how you can translate it into action? So I'm trying to say is that you feel attachment to it...I would still want to go back there now. I would like to go back there. [00:27:32] But provided there is no...hassle. There is no...threat or anything that disturbs your tranquillity. So we must accept. And we are quite happy here.

[00:28:02] Jews are adaptable. In a new surrounding you try not to feel stranger. And...as I said, we are comfortable here. Sometimes we hear and we read about the suffering of the people in the country, in the old country, in Iraq. [00:28:45] And we, I don't know whether we should pity them or should commiserate with them or we tell them "You are getting what's coming to you." [00:29:11] We don't say any of these things but we know that things there have changed. For everybody. [00:29:30] That part of the world is in inner [?] turmoil. Either dictatorships or anarchy...and you don't know where the new threat will becoming from.

[00:30:02] Bea: But how do you feel towards Iraq today? Do you feel bitter about you experiences?

[00:30:20] Abdullah: No. No somehow we don't feel bitter. [00:30:40] It's...it's a new generation and the new generation so these are new people. They don't know what's what. What...

[00:31:10] Bea: And how would you describe yourself in terms of your identity?

[00:31:16] Abdullah: Definitely I'm not British. [00:31:29] But how can I deny that I am an Iraqi? I didn't go there as an immigrant. Have been there for 3000 years. So even people of the country itself haven't been there for that long. [00:32:02] They all came from the peninsula, they are newcomers so I don't feel...when we were there we didn't feel that we are a place to which we did not belong. Maybe other Jews would feel [?] if they were a country which is not theirs, they had to travel there. [00:32:34] Now I feel this is not my country. That's why I say I don't look upon myself as a British. But I'm not also denying the fact that the British gave us refuge. Sometimes it was very difficult. Sometimes it became very easy to come here. [00:33:17] But the fact that we came here, we are grateful and we shouldn't take it for granted.

[00:33:38] Bea: What is the...did you want to say anything else?

[00:33:42] Abdullah: No I was going, we were talking about minorities, we forget the Kurds. The Kurds who live in the north, in the mountain of Iraq. Of course they have been trying...for years and years and years to get their own government, their own entity. Because there are Kurds in Turkey, as you know. [00:34:20] Kurds in Syria. Kurds in Lebanon. Kurds in Iran and they are all next to, almost to each other. And in the north there are the Iraqi Kurds. But politics, they didn't want them to have a state. That's why they are divided. And each one of them could make a country. Now in Iraq I hear that...[00:35:00] They have their own administration. And they Iraqis, the Iraqi government had to give them that facility to have their own government, their own institutions, their own...almost everything. [00:35:22] Because the Iraqi government was very weak and the Kurds insisted and they got it. Now they have their parliament, they have their schools and...if you go there you would feel that you are in a new country.

[00:35:58] Bea: Tell me please, what do you think, for you, is the most important part of your Iraqi-Jewish heritage?

[00:36:06] Abdullah: What I think what?

[00:36:07] Bea: What's the most important part of your Iraqi-Jewish heritage.

[00:36:20] Abdullah: What do you call heritage? Culture? My culture? My...certainly not my religion. [00:36:38] Maybe the language. [00:36:55] Yes that's the only part. The language.

[00:37:11] Bea: Do you continue to speak Arabic to your wife and your children?

[00:37:16] Abdullah: To my children...I'm afraid not. Maybe to Linda, she's the oldest. The other two don't understand it properly. No, they wouldn't understand it because they mixed with the English friends [inaudible] for the beginning and they talk to them in English. [00:37:47] With Linda very few times in Arabic. Mostly in English. And the same thing with my wife. We speak with the two languages a the same time without feeling it.

[00:38:18] Bea: What sort of identity did you want to transmit to your children?

[00:38:26] Abdullah: Let them choose. Let them choose it themselves. They are grown-ups and they have their own ideas. One of them is married to a Scottish girl. [00:38:56] The other one is married to a Brazilian. Both seem to be very happy so they are the stage where they know what they want. Enough of giving directions. [00:39:19] We have been doing it for a long time for them.

[00:39:26] Bea: What impact do you think did it have on your life that you had to leave Iraq?

[00:39:43] Abdullah: I tell you frankly it didn't disorganize anything. To be frank we were comfortable when we were there and we stayed comfortable all the way. [00:40:22] So...it is one of the things that must happen at a lifetime.

[00:40:38] Bea: Do you have any message for anyone who might watch this interview based on your experiences?

[00:40:46] Abdullah: To interview?

[00:40:48] Bea: Do you have any message?

[00:40:49] Abdullah: To whom?

[00:40:51] Bea: To anyone who watches this interview? Or to the future generations?

[00:41:10] Abdullah: Frankly, no.

[00:41:21] Bea: Was there anything you'd like to add which we haven't discussed?

[00:41:26] Abdullah: No, no. I'm grateful to you. You asked me the right questions. And you let me talk and talk and talk and talk. But I said everything I think that is necessary for the...for the interview. And I'm grateful to you for that.

[00:41:53] Bea: Mr. Dangoor, thank you very much for this interview.

[00:41:56] Abdullah: Thank you indeed. Thank you. So...am I free to cough now for example?

[00:42:16] Bea: In one moment.

[00:42:18] Abdullah: Oh.

[00:42:29] Bea: Mr. Dangoor can you please introduce the lady behind you?

[00:42:36] Abdullah: I introduce my beautiful wife, Claire. She has been a great help to me in all these voyages that I have been reciting to you. A great help. I couldn't have managed without her, whether with our children, with their school, with the business, with everything. And may god bless her.

[00:43:05] Bea: Mrs. Dangoor would you like to add something?

[00:43:09] Mrs. Dangoor: He has been all the time helping me in things more...what shall I say?

[00:43:27] Abdullah: Same everything.

[00:43:32] Mrs. Dangoor: More complex for me to achieve. And he has always been with me.

[00:43:49] Abdullah: Always I will be.

[00:43:51] Mrs. Dangoor: We have passed very difficult times but thank god now things are much better. And we hope that we will continue the same.

[00:44:13] Bea: Thank you very much, we are going to look at some photographs now.

[00:44:21] Bea: Yes please, Mr. Dangoor, can you please describe this photograph?

[00:44:25] Abdullah: This is the picture of my grandfather Aham Azourra Raouben Dangoor [SP??]. He is standing there near the mausoleum of Joshua [inaudible] Gedol [sp?]. Joshua the High Priest. It must have been taken in 1928.

[00:44:50] Bea: Thank you.

[00:44:56] Bea: Mrs. Dangoor, can you please describe this photo?

[00:44:59] Mrs. Dangoor: This is the photograph of my, fo the wedding of my in-laws. Enyahu Ezra Dangoor [sp?] and Hatun Hazma [sp?].

[00:45:17] Bea: Thank you. Can you please describe this photograph?

[00:45:21] Mrs. Dangoor: This is the engagement of my father Saleh Shookur [sp?] to my mother Naima Spadel [sp?]. And between them is my grandfather Shlomo Saleshuke [sp?] and, oh goodness, I forgot...and...Hatun Zumek [sp?].

[00:46:00] Bea: When was this roughly taken?

[00:46:02] Mrs. Dangoor: It was taken in Baghdad in our house.

[00:46:15] Bea: Thank you. Yes please.

[00:46:19] Mrs. Dangoor: This is a picture which was taken in 1921 after the wedding of my parents. They are sitting around a tea table. Taking tea. My father on the right, my mother on the left. And it is a very nice picture taken at our house.

[00:46:50] Bea: Thank you. Yes please.

[00:46:54] Mrs. Dangoor: This is a picture of my in-law family. On the right-hand side sits my husband Adbullah. After, my mother-in-law is sitting and then Ilene sitting next to her. On the left Doreen, my sister-in-law and behind Selim, my brother-in-law afterwards my father-in-law...Naïm...and Seson [sp?].

[00:47:51] Bea: When was it taken?

[00:47:53] Mrs. Dangoor: This was taken at a photographer, I think, in 1936...'39 sorry.

[00:48:02] Bea: Thank you. Yes please.

[00:48:09] Mrs. Dangoor: This is a picture taken in the garden of our house. Apicture that was taken after our marriage in 1948, February. It shows on the right Ilene, Seson [sp?], my mother Naïma, my father Saleh [sp?]. In front of him my sister Lily, next to him is my husband Abdullah, myself, my father Renlo Eliaho [sp?], my mother-in-law Hatun [sp?], Selim and Doreen.

[00:49:11] Bea: Thank you. Yes please.

[00:49:15] Mrs. Dangoor: This is the invitation written in Arabic and English to our wedding on the 4th of February 1948. We had a private ceremony because of the situation after, or before, Israel was...

[00:49:56] Bea: Created.

[00:49:57] Mrs: Dangoor: Created. So we did not, we were not able to have a big wedding. It was all private and we took the pictures after the wedding so that we wouldn't attract attention from people walking near our house.

[00:50:28] Bea: Thank you. Yes please.

[00:50:35] Mrs. Dangoor: This is a picture of our family with Alfred, Linda, my husband, Eddie and me sitting down. That was taken on December 1961 just a few months after we arrived here. It was the wedding of Seson [sp?], my brother-in-law.

[00:51:11] Bea: Thank you. Yes please.

[00:51:16] Mrs. Dangoor: This is a picture taken on the morning that my daughter Linda was going to be married to Frank [inaudible]. It is a very lovely picture taken at their home because they had previously had the civil ceremony.

[00:51:51] Bea: When was it taken?

[00:51:54] Mrs. Dangoor: 6th July 1997.

[00:52:02] Bea: Thank you. Yes please.

[00:52:07] Mrs. Dangoor: This is a picture of my son Eddie with his family on July last year for the graduation of Ruben, his son. And also his brother Jesse and Eddie's wife Hilary.

[00:52:37] Bea: Thank you. Yes please.

[00:52:44] Mrs. Dangoor: This is a picture of my son Alfred, his wife Valeria and his son Danny taken in January 2006 in Brazil. In Sao Paolo where they live.

[00:53:07] Bea: Thank you Mrs. Dangoor.

[00:53:11] Bea: Yes please.

[00:53:13] Mrs. Dangoor: This book was hand-written by my husband's grandfather Aham Azra Dangoor [sp?] and started in 18...18-something, I'm not very sure. But he always used to have his own thoughts and he writes on them. He has many books, dissertations, ideas, all the time his mind was very active.

[00:54:10] Bea: Thank you very much.

[00:54:12] Mrs. Dangoor: Not at all.