Asad Muallim

[21:10:43] Interviewer: This is an interview for Sephardi Voices. My name is Henry Green, I am the interviewer. I am here with Mr. Asad Muallim, who is the interviewee. We are in Toronto. It is September the 19th, 2016 and the cameraman is Jeff Rideout.

[21:11:05] Slate. Alright, very good.

[21:11:17] Interviewer: I'm getting too old to get on my knees.

[21:11:19] [undignified joke ;)]

[21:11:46] Interviewer: What is your full name please?

[21:11:47] Asad: Azas - Asad Muallim.

[21:11:50] Interviewer: And was this your name at birth?

[21:11:53] Asad: Yes.

[21:11:54] Interviewer: And when were you born?

[21:11:56] Asad: Jul 1st, 1941.

[21:12:00] Interviewer: And where were your born?

[21:12:01] Asad: Al Diwaniya, Iraq.

[21:12:04] Interviewer: So first let me just thank you on behalf of Sephardi Voice.

[21:12:07] Asad: You're welcome.

[21:12:08] Interviewer: We very much appreciate it. So the - I'd like to begin by just asking you a very general question. Can you tell me something about your family background? Your grandparents?

[21:12:21] Asad: Uh, we'll go back to my grand - uh, parents. My grandfather actually he, he was born in the 1800's, 1885 possible or even more I, or earlier, I don't know, possible. And uh, he was raised in a Jewish family. [21:12:46] When he was at the age of 18 he was very entrepreneurial uh and uh, the family was very poor so he started a bakery and in the bakery they always needed the flour and all that so he decided that maybe it's time to do some farming too, you know? [21:13:07] So he saved some money, he bought some farms and then the farms expanded into the rice farming, into the flour farming uh, our rice was very, very popular and it's called the amber rice, come from the area of [inaudible] area. And uh, then uh, the farming needed the oil all the time for, for the machinery and all so I started to bring machinery and for the oil he, he, he was the first in the, in that particular area uh, to uh, start a warehouse of oil. [21:13:47] And he became an agent to British petroleum in, in, in uh, under the, the British colonial, you know, power in, in Iraq. Um, after that uh, in 1930, uh, uh, so the business was growing really rapidly. They became very, very wealthy uh, my, my father was born 1905 and uh, he was raised into that family too so...[21:14:22] After that uh, uh, they uh, the family decided that uh, it's time that they expand their, into different, other type of industry uh. In 19 - uh...uh, they decided that uh, the one to do was uh, brick because the, the, that area needed brick very badly. So he was the first one to build the, a brick factory in that area. [21:14:58] And that was uh built in 1947 though. Just back to the 1933, 1930 uh, uh 1940, uh, they built uh, a big house on the Euphrates river and uh in 1937, '38...time uh, the story about this house, particular was so fancy and big uh, that the governor of the city was really upset with it, that a Jewish family owned such a house on, in that area. [21:15:36] So on a Yom Kippur in 1940 uh, he sent his troops and they started demolishing the house while they were in the synagogue praying for the Yom Kippur eve. And...there was a big turmoil. The family escaped from Diwaniya and went to Baghdad. [21:15:59] Uh, my father he started a lawsuit against the minister of, of uh, interior. At that time there were some Jewish, still some Jewish influence in, in Iraq and actually he won the, the lawsuit. The governor was uh, uh, fired and actually he was demoted and uh, so that, that was one part of, of our family.

[21:16:26] Interviewer: So let me, let me just go back a bit. So your grandfather you said 1885. That's on your father - was born around that time.

[21:16:35] Asad: Probably yeah.

[21:16:35] Interviewer: Okay. So um, this is paternal? Your father's father?

[21:16:40] Asad: My father's father yeah.

[21:16:41] Interviewer: And what was the grandfather's name?

[21:16:43] Asad: Seson [ph].

[21:16:43] Interviewer: Seson. And his, did his family live in this area for a long time before that? Do you have any history?

[21:16:51] Asad: Uh, his father uh, he was uh, uh...uh...he was an orphan actually. His, his father and uh, he studied in the yeshiva and then he moved to this area because they needed somebody, a Jewish educator for the, for the, for that particular area so that's why he became, came the name. [21:17:15] The family name, originally, was Shamash but the, it changed because everybody called him the Muallim, Alim, Alim, you know, so he became...the, the, the area educator in Hebrew, you know, like teaching Hebrew and all that.

[21:17:32] Interviewer: And he, what was his wife's name? Your grandmother?

[21:17:37] Asad: Uh, Rima.

[21:17:38] Interviewer: Rima.

[21:17:39] Asad: Yeah.

[21:17:40] Interviewer: That was her - her first name was Rima?

[21:17:42] Asad: Yeah.

[21:17:43] Interviewer: Rima. And her maiden name? Her...

[21:17:45] Asad: I...I have no idea. I don't remember.

[21:17:48] Interviewer: And do you, do you have memories of your grandmother at all?

[21:17:53] Asad: Yes, actually, it's in the picture.

[21:17:55] Interviewer: But can you tell me some memory of when you were growing up and being with her?

[21:18:00] Asad: Uh...uh, I remember that she used always to cook for us and uh, have us for the Shabbat dinner and for the, festival, you know, like the Jewish festival, the high holidays and the...

[21:18:15] Interviewer: So tell me about Shabbat at your grandmother's house.

[21:18:19] Asad: Uh...

[21:18:19] Interviewer: What would Shabbat be like?

[21:18:21] Asad: Uh they, they normally they used to go to the synagogue, they come back and then we have a meal and at that time we were very young. I was very, very young. I remember with my brothers they, we used to have ping-pong table so used to play ping-pong at their house because they had a big house.

[21:18:40] Interviewer: And did, what language did you speak to your grandmother?

[21:18:44] Asad: Arabic.

[21:18:45] Interviewer: Arabic.

[21:18:45] Asad: Yeah.

[21:18:46] Interviewer: And did they have help in the house?

[21:18:49] Asad: Yes.

[21:18:50] Interviewer: And was it uh, Muslim, Christian?

[21:18:54] Asad: Usually Muslims.

[21:18:56] Interviewer: It was Muslims and did they live in the house?

[21:18:58] Asad: Yes, they did. Yeah.

[21:19:00] Interviewer: And um, your grandfather, do you remember uh, uh, memories with your grandfather?

[21:19:07] Asad: Yeah he, uh, I loved him very much because he always tried to spoil us, you know. Uh...

[21:19:12] Interviewer: How did he try to spoil you?

[21:19:14] Asad: Well like, I cry and he buys me a bicycle. I cry, I need a watch and he would go and buy me a watch and things like that. Or taking me with him everywhere he goes when uh, you know, my father was busy with the business but he, he was like, always taking us somewhere.

[21:19:32] Interviewer: So um, did he take you to the souk to shop with him?

[21:19:37] Asad: Uh, to the, to the coffee shops a lot. We used to go and sit with him in the coffee shop.

[21:19:43] Interviewer: And did he play uh..

[21:19:44] Asad: Yeah, the, [overlap] the back, the back, always yeah.

[21:19:48] Interviewer: And did you learn how to play also?

[21:19:50] Asad: Yes, I did.

[21:19:51] Interviewer: Were you any good at it?

[21:19:53] Asad: Okay. I was okay with it. [laughs]

[21:19:56] Interviewer: Was he good at it?

[21:19:57] Asad: He was very good at it yeah. He played all kinds of games with it. Not, there are two, two, three types of games they, they can play.

[21:20:07] Interviewer: Did he have friends that he would meet there?

[21:20:08] Asad: Yes. Yes.

[21:20:10] Interviewer: Can you tell me about any of these - di you have any memories?

[21:20:12] Asad: Actually from my memory I know that, and, when we were still living in - when I was very, very young and he was always with the Muslim sheiks [?]. Because he was uh, partner in, partner in the agriculture with them. So and at...[21:20:31] They used to use him as a, as a judge for their own disputes because they always trusted whatever uh, decision he'll make. He was not biased so they will accept his decision.

[21:20:44] Interviewer: And did you ever go with him to see these...

[21:20:47] Asad: No, actually, my brother used, used to tell me this. They used to go with him. My father also is telling me these stories that he used to go with him.

[21:20:56] Interviewer: And did you ever go out in the - did your grandfather go out into his farms or his..

[21:21:01] Asad: Yeah.

[21:21:02] Interviewer: Did you go with him at all?

[21:21:03] Asad: Yes, we did, yeah, yeah.

[21:21:04] Interviewer: And what was that like?

[21:21:06] Asad: It was really nice to go and see all the - these farms uh, especially the rice swamps area. And the people working there uh, was very, very interesting. Very nice. The roads they had and old car, and old style - like the old fashioned car and I remember we used to go in that car and drive to the city of Shamiah [ph], which is about 20 minutes, it's just a suburb area. [21:21:37] And you see those farms, the nice bridges...uh around. It's really beautiful. It's just, just, just marvellous.

[21:21:47] Interviewer: Who were the workers? Muslims? Jews?

[21:21:49] Asad: Muslims, yeah. Muslims.

[21:21:49] Interviewer: Were there any Jewish workers?

[21:21:51] Asad: No.

[21:21:52] Interviewer: Jewish managers?

[21:21:54] Asad: Yes. Like in the brick factory we had a Jewish manager uh, but all the employees were Muslims.

[21:22:03] Interviewer: And what happened on Saturday? Would he be working in the fields or would there be no work?

[21:22:13] Asad: No there would be no work, no, on Saturday? No. There will be no work.

[21:22:17] Interviewer: So your grandfather was shomer shabbas, he was religious?

[21:22:21] Asad: Uh, not really.

[21:22:23] Interviewer: And so you said you went to his place for Shabbat, would he go to synagogue on Friday night?

[21:22:28] Asad: No.

[21:22:30] Interviewer: Saturday?

[21:22:31] Asad: Saturday yeah.

[21:22:31] Interviewer: And would you go with him?

[21:22:34] Asad: Sometimes.

[21:22:35] Interviewer: And any memories of when you would go to synagogue with him?

[21:22:38] Asad: Uh, Yom Kippur I remember very well. You know there, we always, the synagogue was always mostly during the holidays. My family was not very religious so...

[21:22:55] Interviewer: And what about you maternal side? Your mother's parents?

[21:23:00] Asad: Uh...yeah, very interesting. They were very, so much loving and more loving, actually. Uh, very welcoming uh, because my uh, father's parents passed away so I was left with only with mother's ones so I grew up with the mother's side more. And especially after my brothers left to Israel in 1951, we were left alone, like me and my younger brother we stayed back. [21:23:34] So the whole family, most of the Jews, most of the relatives they all left so we were kind of uh, only a few people left of our family.

[21:23:46] Interviewer: What was your mother's, your grandmother, your mother's mother's name?

[21:23:51] Asad: Zbeda [ph].

[21:23:53] Interviewer: Zbeda and do you remember, do you know her maiden name at all?

[21:23:56] Asad: Uh, she is uh, from, her father was [last name]

[21:24:01] Interviewer: Akashni [?].

[21:24:02] Asad: Uh and her brothers, she had three brothers, Eliyahu, Menashe and Nassim. Now Menashe was killed uh, a month before I was born. He was, he was in the Shamia area also, he came out of the house and he was shot during the, the, that period of the Farhoud and all that. [21:24:27] There were a lot of Jew - anti-Jewish area. the same thing with when they demolished our house on the river. Same thing. Uh, it was a very, uh, depressing time because I don't - I hear all these stories, the Germans at that time they were really uh, with the - Amir Hesseni [ph] and uh, and all the Syrian teachers and the Palestinian teachers that came to Iraq to spread the, the Palestinian uh, and the Nazis uh, education into, into the Arab, into the Arab worlds. [21:25:10] Um, there were a lot of riots against the Jews. That's when, by 1941 there were a lot of hatred against the Jews. This is when the Farhoud came. Uh, I was born after the Farhoud.

[21:25:24] Interviewer: What was your, your mother's father's name?

[21:25:29] Asad: Uh, Yaheska [ph]

[21:25:31] Interviewer: Yaheska.

[21:25:31] Asad: Yeah.

[21:25:32] Interviewer: And uh, and did they live with you?

[21:25:35] Asad: No, they had their own house.

[21:25:36] Interviewer: They had their own house.

[21:25:38] Asad: And do you um, would you go to that house afterwards for Shabbat?

[21:25:42] Asad: A lot. A lot yeah. A lot.

[21:25:44] Interviewer: So can you tell me some stories?

[21:25:47] Asad: Well we're always uh, go there. there is the coffee, the, the specialty foods and all that, she always, my grandmother would, used to prepare for us, you know. So we'd go in the evening and I had my cousins there. [21:26:04] Uh, my, my uncle, he lived with them, they lived with my uncle and his wife and they had two daughters so my cousins were there. And uh, we used to play a lot and uh...

[21:26:21] Interviewer: What kind of games?

[21:26:22] Asad: Uh, Monopoly...we played, we played uh...trying to remember. we played. Uh, we used to...

[21:26:34] Interviewer: Did your grandmother play cards?

[21:26:36] Asad: Um, my grandmother no, didn't play cards.

[21:26:40] Interviewer: And did that grandfather uh, play uh, I mean did you play backgammon and also..

[21:26:44] Asad: Yeah, yeah, they, they, yeah he did, yeah.

[21:26:47] Interviewer: And the, what kind of foods did you like? Your grandmother made special food [overlap]

[21:26:50] Asad: It was a ton of Iraqi food.

[21:26:53] Interviewer: Like?

[21:26:53] Asad: Like the bamya, the shwanda [ph], the...saluna. Uh...I'm trying to remember what else that there are - kebab, brouhil [ph] and [inaudible] a ton of stuff.

[21:27:11] Interviewer: So your, you said you're born in 1941.

[21:27:16] Asad: Yeah.

[21:27:17] Interviewer: So your, do you know how your parents met?

[21:27:24] Asad: Not really. I, I don't, I don't know the story exactly, no. But uh...

[21:27:30] Interviewer: And your father's name is...

[21:27:32] Asad: Ezet [ph].

[21:27:33] Interviewer: Ezet, wand what year was he born?

[21:27:35] Asad: In 1915.

[21:27:36] Interviewer: 1915. And um, do you know anything about his growing up? His...

[21:27:44] Asad: Uh...he was uh, he was an entrepreneurial too because he learned from his, from my grandfather uh, that's why like he used to be a cont - I remember that all, all I hear that he was a contractor, he used to tell us that he was a contractor, he used to get contracts and build uh, he built uh...[21:28:07] A dam on, on one of the rivers. He got that contract and he built it. Uh, and uh, I remember in that, when we were living in the Diwaniya I was very, very young and uh, uh, we used to go and visit uh the, the Jewish prophets around uh, the Kifil [ph] area. [21:28:31] And uh, that was really very festive time when all the Jews form that area used to go from Baghdad, from every- there will be thousands and thousands of Jewish people visiting the prophets at that time.

[21:28:44] Interviewer: Do you remember which prophets?

[21:28:46] Asad: Uh yeah uh...Nabiheshkel [ph] they called him. Um...

[21:28:53] Interviewer: And do you remember when, what time of the year you did that?

[21:28:55] Asad: Uh, it was around April, May area. Some - yeah, somewhere in there.

[21:29:00] Interviewer: After Pessah [overlap]

[21:29:02] Asad: Ah yeah, after Pessah, yeah. It was after Pessah.

[21:29:07] Interviewer: And your, your mother, her name is...?

[21:29:12] Asad: Eliza.

[21:29:13] Interviewer: Eliza. And what do you know about her, her upbringing?

[21:29:17] Asad: Uh, she was very busy raising children. [laughs] I know that. Ah...when uh, my family before uh, separated in 1951 uh, my family after the, after they demolished the house they moved to Baghdad. Uh...and then...

[21:29:43] Interviewer: When uh, your family, being your mother's side or your father's side?

[21:29:47] Asad: No, no, my, my family, my parents.

[21:29:50] Interviewer: Your parents.

[21:29:50] Asad: Yeah, my parents, my parents moved to Baghdad.

[21:29:52] Interviewer: What year was the house demolished again?

[21:29:55] Asad: I think it was in 1940, or '39. '39 or '40. I don't [overlap] remember.

[21:29:59] Interviewer: So before you were born?

[21:30:00] Asad: Yeah, before I was, before I was born.

[21:30:03] Interviewer: And they moved to Baghdad yeah.

[21:30:05] Asad: So you, um, so let's go back again and, but you weren't born in Baghdad.

[21:30:10] Asad: No. Yeah because my, my pa - my grandparents were still in Diwaniya so we always had connection. We'd go there and visit them and probably I was born then. I don't remember but that's apparently - all I know, my citizenship show, show that but all my life I lived in Baghdad. [21:30:29] It doesn't matter anyway. I don't think the birthplace is that, that important. The main thing is, is they moved to Baghdad, they stayed in Baghdad another four, five years 19 - I remember I was a child in Baghdad, I went to a kindergar- garden in Baghdad and then my father, in 1947 he built the factory in Diwaniya so we moved back to Diwaniya for a few years. From 1947 to 1952 and then we moved back to Baghdad.

[21:31:03] Interviewer: So your, you said you were born in 1941. Do you have brothers and sisters? Can you tell me their names and what year they were born please?

[21:31:12] Asad: Yeah, yeah, Sammy was born in uh, 1933. Uh...Eliyahu 1936...uh...and uh, Diald, Danielle was born in 1938 and I was born in 1941.

[21:31:32] Interviewer: And um in, the period between 1941 to 1945 was the war years, did you have any memories of any of this?

[21:31:43] Asad: Uh, I remember my, my uh, aunt, which is my brother's sister, she got married and he, he, he was building her house and we used to go and visit the house that he is building in [Al Hawiga?] area. And I remember the workers at that time their song was [song name] As Zionists, put up your hands. That's the translation and they were signing it all the time. I remember I was just a kid and I hear this song [Song name]. And, which means you, as a Zionist, put up your hands.

[21:32:28] Interviewer: Did you know anything about Zionism yet?

[21:32:30] Asad: No, not really. I didn't have even an idea what, what they were singing. [laughs] I remember, that was in Baghdad. Then uh, we moved back to Diwaniya for, from '47 to '51. I was in primary school there. Uh, one thing I want to say about the primary school in Diwaniya, how advanced things were at that time. They, we used to have, I was only in the second grade, or third grade, I don't remember, they used to - we had to go at night to learn dance. [21:33:02] They used to play, they bring a gramophone and they wind it up and they play music and they teach us how to dance. This is, I remember so distinctly. I can't believe how Iraq has changed. This is 1940....'48? 40-somewhere in there, you know. And another thing is I was a student in that primary school in the Muslim school. The teacher used to hug me like this and he tells me, "When are you going to be a Muslim? Did your family become Muslim or not yet?" [21:33:40] And I said no.

[21:33:43] Interviewer: Were there many Jew - Jewish students in the class?

[21:33:45] Asad: Yeah, there were. There were a few, not too many.

[21:33:48] Interviewer: And how did your classmates treat you as a Jewish person?

[21:33:53] Asad: We were okay at that time. There were, it was still, wasn't too bad but I know my uh, older brothers they really had to do uh, fist fighting sometimes with students. Because they always, like my, my...number three brother uh, he was, he will not accept anything. He will go and fight. He will always in a boxing match with a Muslim about uh, a word he heard, about anti-Jewish uh, sentiment or something. [21:34:25] That’s why, you know like, in 1951 they were the first to, to, to leave Iraq.

[21:34:31] Interviewer: So let me go um, and ask just this simple question in terms of you're in uh, back in Diwaniya, it's 1948, late '47, '48, you're living there and...

[21:34:44] Asad: That was a depressing time. Very bad. I remember we were so scared because uh, they always, the government started to, to fire all the Jewish people. I had like, my father cousins they were all in the army. They fire them. They laid them off and uh, there were to be a lot of demonstrations in the city of Diwaniya about uh, Palestine and uh, they were all against Jewish people. [21:35:16] So we were really scared and the government at that time they, they started uh, coming to houses and looking for anything symbol with a Jewish symbol like even the Star of David, it became a no-no. So my family they started burning all kinds of stuff that they, that had any related to Jewish because we were so scared.

[21:35:42] Interviewer: Did...

[21:35:43] Asad: And - especially my older brother he was in the underground Zionist and he, and we had girls [?] in the Zionist movement coming form all over the place. They come to our house. And they sell bread, the, the Israeli - with Israeli flags. It was really scary but my father had, his, the, the director of the police in that town, he was very, very close friend of him and he used to give him lots of money. [21:36:11] He used to put money in the envelope and give it to him. So he closed his eyes but it would have been really bad. But still we were scared, you know? I remember that uh, after my, after my brothers left to Israel uh, one night my father and uncle came to our, in our house. They decided to into a room and then they started digging because my older brother, who was in the underground, he had arms there, you know? [21:36:42] So, and of course he took that arms afterwards. I don’t know what happened to the arms but they had to take all that stuff from the, from the room to hide it, you know? Just in case...

[21:36:52] Interviewer: Did your father and mother know that this was going on?

[21:36:55] Asad: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, they knew very, very well.

[21:36:58] Interviewer: And do you know any names like, have you ever heard of the name Khatan [ph]? Johef Khatan or Sammy Khatan?

[21:37:06] Asad: I was too young into this really.

[21:37:09] Interviewer: ...did you know the name Ben-Porat?

[21:37:11] Asad: He, yeah, my brother had some connections with, with uh, yeah, what was it?

[21:37:19] Interviewer: Porat.

[21:37:19] Asad: Yeah, Porat, Ben-Porat.

[21:37:21] Interviewer: Ben Porat.

[21:37:21] Asad: Ben-Porat yeah I re - I head, I heard that name yeah, Ben-Porat yeah.

[21:37:26] Interviewer: And when these um, were there...Zionists coming form Palestine to um, organize your brothers or the people?

[21:37:42] Asad: Yeah.

[21:37:42] Interviewer: Do you remember them at all?

[21:37:44] Asad: I remember, I don't remember their names but I know one, one person was really bulky guy. Uh, he used to come to our house and like, my brother used to invite him for dinner in our house. But um, my, my parents uh, I'm surprised that they did not really object to it at all. Even knowing what's going on in the surrounding with the government. [21:38:07] The environment was really bad anti-Jewish everywhere and all that. They were not very concerted about it and I think it’s because my father’s connections with the, with the department of police and all that.

[21:38:21] Interviewer: Did you listen to the radio during this period?

[21:38:23] Asad: Yes. Yeah we were listening to the, to voice of Israel.

[21:38:29] Interviewer: The voice of Israel?

[21:38:29] Asad: Yeah in Arabic. We used to wait for the, for the news to come on, you know?

[21:38:35] Interviewer: Were you worried that you would be caught listening to this?

[21:38:39] Asad: Uh, actually we were very worried [?]. We had to put in, in a very low voice, you know. Yeah.

[21:38:45] Interviewer: Did you go down to the basement or something?

[21:38:46] Asad: No, no, no. But it, it was really, really trying, a trying time for, for the family you know, like uh, uh, everything is becoming [?] was against Zionism, the government passed a law, they, they confiscated the oil warehouse that my, my father, my grandfather and my father had. [21:39:07] Which was really so much money and uh, you know, they took that one. Uh...then after that the, the farms, the farms uh, they passed a law in 1961 and they took, we had about 20, 30 000 donem [ph], which is about seven ach - thousand acres, somewhere in there. They said, you can only one thousand, but they pass it for everybody, not only for Jews. [21:39:39] So they took the rest of the, of the farms.

[21:39:44] Interviewer: The uh, so let's go back to you as a child, before you, when you were, you were living in this small village. How many Jews do you think were living in the village at that time in this small town?

[21:39:56] Asad: Uh...800 but with the surrounding about 2000.

[21:40:01] Interviewer: And was there a synagogue?

[21:40:03] Asad: Yeah, there was one synagogue only.

[21:40:05] Interviewer: Do you remember the name of it?

[21:40:06] Asad: No.

[21:40:09] Interviewer: Did you used to play with your Muslim friends at all, at school?

[21:40:13] Asad: Uh, I was very young because I - I didn't have too much relationship with the Muslim boys. I don't remember any of them really. But uh, because after that I moved, you've got to remember, I was also in a Jewish kindergarten so my period in the Muslim school was only very limited to two, three years.

[21:40:41] Interviewer: you remember like a seder? Passover seder?

[21:40:50] Asad: Oh it was beautiful, yeah, everybody had to read one section and uh, big table, a lot of people. Uh, the whole family gathered, uncles, the aunts so...was a big gathering.

[21:41:06] Interviewer: And who cooked for that?

[21:41:09] Asad: There were wo - we always had help, lot, lot of people will be cooking for us. My mother will, she sows them how to do things and they, they used to do it.

[21:41:19] Interviewer: And you said everyone would read a sentence or something. Would you read a section too?

[21:41:24] Asad: Yeah, yeah.

[21:41:25] Interviewer: And what language did you read it in?

[21:41:27] Asad: Hebrew.

[21:41:28] Interviewer: And how did you learn Hebrew?

[21:41:30] Asad: Uh, actually Hebrew, in Diwaniya we had a Jewish educa - educator that the whole summer we used to have to go and learn the Torah. Yeah. So they started a school, like a Jewish school in the summer so as soon as the school finished, the education school, the primary school finishes we go to this, like, [??] called the [name of school].

[21:41:56] Interviewer: And your father, he could read Hebrew?

[21:41:59] Asad: Oh my god yeah, he was very, very, very...

[21:42:02] Interviewer: And your grandfathers...?

[21:42:02] Asad: Oh yeah, they were very, very knowledgeable. Very, very knowledgeable.

[21:42:07] Interviewer: And did they uh...

[21:42:10] Asad: Although they were not religious but they were very, very, they knew the whole thing.

[21:42:15] Interviewer: Did they keep kosher, your family?

[21:42:17] Asad: Yeah my - yeah my mother, absolutely.

[21:42:19] Interviewer: Your house was kosher.

[21:42:20] Asad: Yes. Yes. I remember when my grandmother, she used to do the, the uh, the separation, the dishes and all that and dip them into the hot water. Is it was a big hullabaloo. She was the supervisor.

[21:42:40] Interviewer:

[21:42:43] Asad: In the, during my, my brother was telling me that every Pessah, before the Pessah um, my [touches mic] grandfather from his farm, he brings all the special uh, uh, rice and flour and he gives them to all the Jews of the town. Because we had so much, you know like, they used to come in big packs, 100 kilograms each bag. [21:43:11] And somebody will be carrying them on their shoulders so he used to, like, every Jewish used to come and take the special ones for the Pessah. He used to have special ones that, grown only for the Pessah.

[21:43:27] Interviewer: Do you remember actually seeing matzo being made?

[21:43:29] Asad: Oh yeah, oh yeah. That was - oh my yeah. That was uh, the most festive time of our lives uh, making the matzo yeah. The, all the women used to gather and do the bread and we had a mud type of an oven and they used to put that in the oven. There were a lot of people helping, oh my god. Uh...special women who knows how to do this. My mother doesn't do it, you know, like. [21:44:01] She always had people doing it for her.

[21:44:04] Interviewer: And during the seder did you uh, during Passover, did you eat rice during Passover?

[21:44:08] Asad: Yes, we did actually.

[21:44:11] Interviewer: So the, did you have other Sephardi special traditions for Passover?

[21:44:15] Asad: Uh, uh...[21:44:23] There are a little bit of difference between the Ashkenazi and the Sephardic. I know that the Ashkenazi they don't eat rice. I know because we, our contact with my son and m, my uh, in-laws, his in-laws, you know, they invite us for sometime to stay there. They do it a bit differently. But also there are [inaudible] too. [21:44:44] The only difference I see is with the wine when the, the ten plates. They do it with fingers and just put it in a plate. And in Iraq we used to have a, a cup and we drop, make drops one, one by one. And then we had to dump that somewhere else outside the house.

[21:45:10] Interviewer: And the, in the seder there's a part where you go find that [inaudible].

[21:45:15] Asad: Yeah we used to -

[21:45:16] Interviewer: Do you remember -

[21:45:16] Asad: I remember I was a child, we used to carry it, you know, we used to carry it uh...the...on our shoulders the [??]. And uh, my uncle used to play a game like he will hide it and whoever finds it, he will give him five dinars or something like that. It was nice. The Purim was a very festive time. I remember all this was that used to be done and that is the time when we all get money you know like? [21:45:48] My uncle would give me money, the other...receive a lot of money, gifts for the Purim.

[21:45:55] Interviewer: What did you do with all your money?

[21:45:57] Asad: I don't remember. We were, we, actually I remember, yeah. We saved that money and we buy the first movie in uh, uh, to play the movies, a projector.

[21:46:16] Interviewer: Do you remember your bedroom, what your bedroom looked like?

[21:46:20] Asad: Uh...yeah I, I, we had a big hou - in Baghdad we had a big house too. We had, I don't remember how many rooms uh...but me and my brother slept in the same room. We didn't, we were very close, even when we had other rooms empty we slept in the same room. Uh...we had a closet for our, our clothes hanging. [21:46:51] Beyond that there was nothing special.

[21:46:54] Interviewer: What year did you move to Baghdad? After you...

[21:46:57] Asad: '52.

[21:46:58] Interviewer: '52. And uh, during the period '48 to '51 a lot of the uh, uh, Jews left Iraq and uh, your...your parents didn't leave.

[21:47:13] Asad: No, no they stayed behind.

[21:47:14] Interviewer: But why?

[21:47:16] Asad: Well, my, my father had the factory, they had the lands, the agricultural lands and uh, they had also lands in Baghdad. They had so much stuff that uh it was frozen at the time but then it was released afterwards. But they still, they couldn't sell it. He had, he tried to sell the factory so many times. People will come, Muslims, to look at it but they wouldn't have the money to buy it. [21:47:44] So at the end the government took it.

[21:47:47] Interviewer: And you said your older brothers, they went to, they left?

[21:47:53] Asad: Yeah, they left in 1951.

[21:47:55] Interviewer: And they went where?

[21:47:56] Asad: To Israel.

[21:47:57] Interviewer: So how old were your brothers then?

[21:48:02] Asad: I think my older one was 21 and then 18 and 16. The three of them.

[21:48:10] Interviewer: And they all went to...

[21:48:12] Asad: They all went to Israel. My older, my eldest one was in the Zionist movement.

[21:48:18] Interviewer: And…

[21:48:19] Asad: He was the one leading them.

[21:48:21] Interviewer: And did your parents - what did your parents say? Did they want them to go? Not want them to go?

[21:48:25] Asad: Uh...well they, they, well first of all there was uh, they, they said to, to, they encouraged them actually to go. The reason why they said to them, within one year, as soon as we can sell our properties, we're going to join you but that didn't happen. They couldn’t sell the property, they kept on waiting, waiting and then, hoping that we can sell some properties but they couldn't sell.

[21:48:56] Interviewer: Your older brother, what was his name again?

[21:48:58] Asad: Sammy.

[21:49:00] Interviewer: Sammy. So did Sammy ever worry that the police would come and find him or...?

[21:49:05] Asad: That, that, I don't know actually. I don't know how he did it. With all those women that they used to come, he used to go to the -it was a small town and he goes to the station and bring all those girls. The police they knew all about it but they wouldn't say anything. [21:49:24] It's just - I don't know whether it was a miracle or really it's because of my father's connections.

[21:49:30] Interviewer: So when your, Sammy, left, he left in '51.

[21:49:34] Asad: Yeah.

[21:49:34] Interviewer: So he left from Baghdad?

[21:49:37] Asad: Yeah.

[21:49:37] Interviewer: And did he leave uh, with one of the planes that came from Israel?

[21:49:41] Asad: Yeah. All of them left, left in those planes.

[21:49:45] Interviewer: But you weren't living in Baghdad then. You were living -

[21:49:47] Asad: Yeah, yeah. We were living still in Diwaniya but right away after they moved, we moved to Baghdad.

[21:49:54] Interviewer: and so did - did your parents go with them to Baghdad to see them leave?

[21:49:57] Asad: Oh yeah, we did. Yeah. It was really, very sad...time.

[21:50:01] Interviewer: Tell me about that.

[21:50:02] Asad: Very, very, very sad. Uh, I remember because uh, the government, when they used to go into, into the uh, before they get to the plane they always went through an inspection. And the, those inspectors, the Muslim inspectors always tried to take a lot of stuff from the, from the uh, from the suitcases. [21:50:24] So they used to go and like, they give them a lot of stuff for, to take with them and they told them that - they were wearing hats and they told them to make signals with the hats. I don't remember what were, what were the signals, whether it was bad or good or whatever, you know. [21:50:44] But it was really bad time. It was very depressing. You see all those Jewish people all crowding the airport in Iraq. Busses and busses. I remember I was a child uh, and one of the busses uh, I remember we went to uh, to uh Baghdad. There was a Shamash uh, was is Shamash, no [mirotweg??] synagogue and that was uh, an assembly point. The busses came to ake the Jews form there to the airport. [21:51:19] And I saw, in one of the busses my aunt there, she was really sad, sitting at the window, you know? I saw her, I was waving to her, you know, she was just, about to leave, you know? [21:51:32] It was very depressing time. Very depressing.

[21:51:35] Interviewer: Did...

[21:51:37] Asad: It's, the government was against you, everything was against us. It was bad.

[21:51:45] Interviewer: So you moved to Baghdad.

[21:51:47] Asad: Yeah.

[21:51:47] Interviewer: And uh, in 1952 so you're 11 years old now.

[21:51:51] Asad: Some - yeah.

[21:51:52] Interviewer: Ten, eleven years old.

[21:51:53] Asad: Yeah.

[21:51:53] Interviewer: And um, what area of Baghdad did you live in? Do you remember?

[21:51:57] Asad: Uh, we lived first in a, in area Al-Wehda, the Al-Wehda area uh, my father would not buy a house. Houses were so cheap at that time. You can buy one for 500 dinars. That's how cheap they became because all the Jews left. They left their homes. But anyway, he said no, we don't want to buy another house, especially after what they did to our house in Diwaniya, you know. [21:52:22] He said, better just to rent. So we kept on renting homes until we left.

[21:52:28] Interviewer: In the same area? Or did you...

[21:52:29] Asad: Al-Wehda - after that 1958 we stayed in - from '2 to '58 in the Al-Wehda area and then we moved to Karrada area.

[21:52:40] Interviewer: And did you go to school then?

[21:52:42] Asad: Yeah, in Frank Eny school uh, I went to the fourth grade uh...then I graduate in 1960...

[21:52:53] Interviewer: From the Frank Eny...

[21:52:55] Asad: From the Frank Eny school yeah.

[21:52:56] Interviewer: So was...

[21:52:57] Asad: Shamash, yeah.

[21:52:58] Interviewer: So was [teacher name] one of your teachers?

[21:53:00] Asad: Yeah. [name], [name], [name]. I remember when we were children uh, [name]. Who else? There were a few...

[21:53:21] Interviewer: Do you have any stories with any of your teachers?

[21:53:24] Asad: Uh...yeah, yeah. We used to be, we, we used to be very, very, we had an English teacher who came from England actually at that time. And we always uh, me and the student was behind me we always tried to make noise with out shoes like this. [rubs feet on floor] You know like, but it was really bad noise, you know? And he - it never bothered him and the more it doesn't bother him we used to raise it even more. [laughs] [21:53:58] Until he went to the, to the principal and said, "They're making too much noise." and then the principal came in and said, "Who was doing it?" you know, all this noise. Everybody was silent, nobody will tell.

[21:54:10] Interviewer: Did you know families like the Shashoua, Hilda Shashoua or people like that?

[21:54:14] Asad: Uh yeah, Hilda Shashoua yeah.

[21:54:16] Interviewer: She would be uh, more or less your - maybe a year or two younger than you.

[21:54:21] Asad: I think Hilda was a, was older, higher than me.

[21:54:26] Interviewer: Higher than you.

[21:54:27] Asad: Yeah, higher than me but Lisette was behind.

[21:54:28] Interviewer: Behind you. And so you were in the...was this a family you spent any time with?

[21:54:34] Asad: Uh, my parents knew them but from a school point of view uh, no but we used to meet them in the [mal-ahb?]. We used to go to play in the, in the evening, we used to play basketball, volleyball, uh, ping-pong uh, tennis, a lot of tennis. I played a lot of tennis at that time. That was nice.

[21:54:58] Interviewer: And so this was, so this was the club...

[21:55:02] Asad: Yeah, the club for the students.

[21:55:04] Interviewer: For the students. Jewish students.

[21:55:06] Asad: Jewish students yeah. That was Nahem Daniel [ph] he built that and it was such a beautiful place. Tennis courts and lovely.

[21:55:16] Interviewer: And in the, in this period of the '50 when you were going to school, did you used to um, were there any Muslims in the school also?

[21:55:27] Asad: Very few. There were people who were from really high ranking either in the, in the civil servants or the rulers, you know. Their sons, they will bring them to Jewish school. That's really amazing, you know? Uh, and my bother, my younger brother, he kept in touch with all of them. A lot of Muslims, he writes all the time, he'S always in [war-word] games with the Muslims when against Israel, you know, against the Jewish people. [21:56:03] He fights all the time with them on the internet. But he also has a lot of Muslim who support him because they know him very well. He went to Al-Hekma university at that time so he had a lot of contacts, Christians and muslims people who don't know what, what's ailing [?] the arab world and they always agree with him. But there were also bad ones.

[21:56:32] Interviewer: What are some stories of the bad ones?

[21:56:34] Asad: Bed, bed ones. Okay, let me first start with me. I, I graduate in 1960 and I uh, applied uh, to - first of all uh, before 1958, when, that's when Abdel Karim Hassem came to power...

[21:56:57] Interviewer: First tell me about the revolution and the killing of the king.

[21:57:00] Asad: Yeah well that was, that was so scary time. Very, very, we were really scared. In 1958 we went to Diwaniya to visit, you know, we still had the brick factory. My uncle lived there so we went for a visit with a lot of Jewish people from, our friends in Baghdad they all came with us. [21:57:21] Because my uncle had a big house so we all went with our friends, the Jewish people. Uh, one of them was the daughter of Shefieh Addes [ph]. Do you know Shefieh Addes, the one who was, yeah, so she was with us too, Vicky. So she was with us and then we were in the Diwaniya and then we were uh, we stayed there about five days and then we were going back to Baghdad. [21:57:50] And we left in the morning, we came to midway and I turned on the radio and I hear [Arabic] which is, "This is an announcement of the republic". I said to my father, wow, is that possible? So right away he started honking. We were three, four cars, started to honking to each other. And uh, our driver was a Muslim guy, the drive - you know, all families in Baghdad they had drivers, you know, like...[21:58:27] That's part of - my father doesn't drive so uh, but here we have a Muslim driver and we, we are scared you know? So we told him to go back to Diwaniya. So we went back to Diwaniya, all the cars went back. We didn't want to go to Baghdad. In Baghdad there was the killing and the, the turmoil, we can hear the news. At that time the we- there was no television in Diwaniya, there was not television, but we were hearing in the radio, you know. And it was really bad so we were so scared. [21:58:58] This girl, Bechafa Addes [ph], you know, she was crying all the time. We tired to calm her down. Finally, after about weeks we decided uh, that, you know what? We have to go back. So we went back to Baghdad as soon as they lifted some of the curfews. They had a curfew at night, you can’t walk out, you can't do anything. It was bad but we saw the pictures, we saw the television, it was horrible, horrible how they were dragging the corpses of the people, the dead people, you know. [21:59:36] With ropes and they dragged them on the floors and cut them into pieces. Unbelievable. I remember in Diwaniya when I was still [there] in those two weeks, one day we were sitting in the office and a big crowd came and they were dragging an officer, an army officer and we Jewish, you know, we were sitting in the office, we were so scared. We didn't know what we were going to see. [22:00:04] And, and after that they kept on going, going. They went to the river area, there was a tree, they hanged him on the tree and they start cutting him. And we were watching from a - the other side of the river, you know. It was so scary. How people could they do these things, you know? Honestly, that's - I witnessed with my own eyes. It was awful, awful, awful. [22:00:29] So anyway finally we went back to Baghdad. It was a trying time. Uh...The, it was in December time and that's the peak of our work in the factory. We had a lot of trouble. The employees, they started to revolt. It, things turned around, you know? Backward. [22:00:54] Anyway, after that, in Baghdad I, I remember things started to calm down but there were always the, the communists uh, took over. And they had militias uh, roaming the streets. They didn't do anything to the Jews actually. When, when after [inaudible] they did not hurt the Jews at all. In fact, things start to get better for the Jews. For the first time uh, my, my parents used to go every year to Europe of to Turkey or to somewhere and the one time - [22:01:29] oh, the Iraqi government, they passed a law that if you stay outside the country more than three months then you lose your citizenship, for the Jews only. So my parents went to, to uh, they were London and then they came father was registered as he came back. My aunt and my mother were not registered as they came back. [22:02:01] So what happened after three months...they lost their citizenship but we were still in, they were still living in Iraq. We didn't know anything about it. Next year, they go, they try to get a passport uh, they can’t find the file. They created a new file. Then after that uh, we had a land my mother she tried to sell and they, he, he said, "You have to have a prev - a proof of citizenship." [22:02:36] She, she has the citizenship, citizen - the proof of citizenship uh, but they said well, you’re not a citizen. Now you have to leave Iraq. Baghdad. I'm serious. So this is in 1957. They just came back, they, they went to Istanbul, they came back and they found out that, that now they, she lost her citizenship. So started a process with lawyers and all that. [22:03:08] They said, you know what? The government, they knew that they made a fau- a mistake so they said you know what? You cannot, we cannot give you the citizenship back because of the law but we'll...keep everything quiet. So in the meantime my mother she said, you know what? That's a good thing that we have to leave. So she kept on pushing my father, you know, she said, "leave everything and let's go." but we had so much land and he had investments in the land, couldn't do it. [22:03:38] So anyway Abdel Al-Karim Kassem come to power and he, he uh, cancels that uh, law. And he gives her back her citizenship. So we stayed back in Iraq. I wish h didn't. But anyway he did. So we stayed back in Iraq and in 19 uh...'60 things uh, Abdel Al-Karim Kassem was the first one who allowed Jews to go to universities. Before that, Jews were not allowed to go to universities. After 1948 no Jews went to uh, any Iraqi universities. [22:04:14] So I was one of the guys who applied and got into the university. The first which...

[22:04:21] Interviewer: Which university?

[22:04:21] Asad: The university of Baghdad [inaudible] medicine. So first week I go there and on the blackboard "Death to Jews, the brothers of communist." That's the first welcome I the university. So right away I walked out and then there were some communist students...came to me and they were hugging me and they say, "Please just ignore it." and all that. [22:04:52] The dean of the university was uh, a personal friend of the family so he kept on saying please don't leave, don't leave, you have to. So anyway, I stayed. Uh, then I made a friends, they were really good people but that uh, left kind of a scar in you, you know. [22:05:16] Uh, I was always one of the brightest in the school, you know, the university and uh, there was one Muslim, he was really bad, he was uh, he belonged to the Ba'ath party, which is, was really brutal party. So he belonged to that one and he came to me and he said, Listen, I didn't study last night, you have to help me." What am I going to do? So I...we go to the test. He said, " This one I don't know how to do." So I wrote a few things for him and I passed it to him and I thought that he is smart enough to copy what I gave him. [22:05:59] But he was not smart enough. What he did, all that stuff that I wrote it on the paper, he gave it, he gave it to the, to the teacher. So the teacher looked to, two writings, you know. He compared the writings with mine, right away, he knew. So he called us, you are a zero and you have a zero. Then, went to the dean...the dean came to me, he said, he said, "You know, I could expel you now from the university, he said, but I'm not going to do it. Don't do this again. " I said no. He said, “I know this guy, he is really bad. He said, don't help him." So you know, uh, from that time everybody knew what happened, you know so they left me alone. [22:06:44] Uh, I always uh, had a car so I used to drive to the university, give them rides, bring back the teachers sometimes to their homes. I always did favours for them, you know, so that they leave me alone, you know? But they were okay, they were really good with me. I graduated, it was really wonderful. Um...

[22:07:07] Interviewer: Let's go back for a second to um, to uh, Frank Eny because I just want to follow up. So you knew how to read Hebrew because of your summer school.

[22:07:18] Asad: Yeah.

[22:07:18] Interviewer: And you spoke Arabic.

[22:07:21] Asad: Yeah.

[22:07:21] Interviewer: In Frank Eny did you lean any other languages like English or French?

[22:07:25] Asad: Yeah, French. Yeah.

[22:07:26] Interviewer: You learned French.

[22:07:26] Asad: Yeah. And I was in the French uh, section. We had English section and French section. I was in the French section but uh...

[22:07:36] Interviewer: Did you speak French to your parents or other people? Did your parents speak French?

[22:07:39] Asad: No. No.

[22:07:41] Interviewer: So French you learned it but you didn't uh...

[22:07:43] Asad: I didn't, I didn't practice it.

[22:07:46] Interviewer: You didn't practice it. And when you were at Frank Eny, you now were a teenager. So did Muslims come, or Christians come to your home at all? Did they visit you at your home?

[22:07:59] Asad: No, we didn't have any contact with Muslims students, no.

[22:08:01] Interviewer: Did you go visit, play with Muslim friends at their homes?

[22:08:08] Asad:, my parents had, had Muslim friends uh, they used to visit us but beyond that their children, no we did not have any contact with them because we are not in, the school makes the contact, you know. So in the school if there are no Jewish, uh, no, no Muslim students we didn't have any Muslim friends.

[22:08:28] Interviewer: But your parents had Muslim friends that would come visit?

[22:08:30] Asad: Yes.

[22:08:31] Interviewer: And they would go visit their home?

[22:08:32] Asad: Well, yeah. Uh, you know like, we had a lot of people in the police, they will come and visit us. We had people, very influential people used to come. Our lawyer was Muslim. The lawyer of the company was Muslim. He used to come and visit us all the time, I guess for business, I don't know but he used to come to our house a lot with his wife. [22:08:56] He had young children at that time, they were too young for us. Uh...But uh, uh, I can tell the story about what uh, happened to, to, to the uh, friends in, our friend sin Basra because...[22:09:18] My uncle had a contact with a police officer uh...high, influential. One who they made him the director of police department in Basra. So we knew a lot of Jewish people from Basra so he referred the, the, he referred the police guy to these people. They said, they [inaudible] you can go to them and, you know, they will help you because they all had businesses, stores and all that. You can shop at their stores. So that guy became a director of police department in Basra. He became, he went, his wife went shopping only to the Jewish stores. [22:10:05] [inaudible] Then I left Iraq uh, at that time but in 1969, when they, in 1968 actually when uh, the Ba'ath party came back to Iraq, that's when all the trouble started. When they came back they, the first family that was arrested in Diwaniya was [touches mic] our family, like my uncle. [22:10:32] My uncles was still living there, he was arrested. He was arrested and uh, actually I had two uncles there, they were both working in the factory so they were arrested and uh, I think that was, we were very, very lucky with that one. The reason why it was lucky I tell o you why, because they send them to Slemania, up north. [22:10:59] And uh, they left them there, and they forgot about them. But in the meantime, my family were, they were doing all they can, they trying to release them. But what happened, that was in, in uh...uh October or November, 1968. But then they started arresting the Jews in Baghdad and Basra too, you know? And this, the director of the police department, the poor guy…they are going behind his back. [22:11:30] I mean all, all the Jew, Jewish, the Basra, they were all his friends and they are going behind his back. And then one day, they arrested him too, the director. And they tortured him. They said, " You are a spy to, for Israel." The poor guy. [22:11:52] But his brother was, he had a, a big influential medical doctor in, in Baghdad. He was able to try to release him. And finally he was released but he was a special friend of my, my uh, uncle. I mean, they were so close but the poor guy, you know like he ended up with the Jewish, you know, conspiracy. That's what they accused the Jewish people and uh, there was uh, this family uh...I'm trying to remember their names. [22:12:31] Najzi Zilha [ph]. The Zilha family, the poor family. there are two brothers, they had uh, a store in Basra and uh, they arrested him and they hanged him in Basra.

[22:12:46] Interviewer: Did...

[22:12:47] Asad: There were about another two, two Jewish people in Basra they were hanged. One of the guys who was hanged was 16 years old. They made his age 18. They had to increase his age to 18 in the, in the prison and then they hanged him too.

[22:13:05] Interviewer: Do you remember his name?

[22:13:07] Asad: No, I don't remember his name, no. But uh it's, it's part of the names that the, the, I think uh the list exists anyway.

[22:13:17] Interviewer: So let's go back to -

[22:13:18] Asad: But I wasn't there, I wasn't in Iraq.

[22:13:21] Interviewer: So let’s go back to the Ba'ath family, I mean party comes to power in '62.

[22:13:27] Asad: Oh, they came in '63.

[22:13:31] Interviewer: '63. Now you're in university.

[22:13:32] Asad: [overlap] I was at the university yeah.

[22:13:34] Interviewer: So tell me about that.

[22:13:37] Asad: That was horrible because it was a Friday actually. Fridays are closed so we didn't go to, I didn't go to the, that day to the university. All we saw is when they killed Abdel Al-Karim Kassen they put, brought him to television and he was dead. They put him on a chair and they start playing with his head like this, you know, to show, to show the people that he is dead. That was awful. [22:14:01] I remember it was so scary to see this on television. And then uh...

[22:14:08] Interviewer: Were the Jews worried then?

[22:14:10] Asad: Very, very worried. After that, after that there were a lot of Jews were arrested uh, but...

[22:14:17] Interviewer: Did you know people who were arrested?

[22:14:19] Asad: Uh...yeah. Georgi Bilboud [ph] was one, one of them that I remember. There were the Houdzbeda [ph] uh, he was arrested and he was released a couple of times during that period.

[22:14:35] Interviewer: [overlap] Any students? Any Jewish students?

[22:14:37] Asad: No. Not, not, not in the '63 but then afterwards...

[22:14:42] Interviewer: Right but not in '63.

[22:14:43] Asad: Not in the '63 yeah.

[22:14:45] Interviewer: Did it affect your parent's business at all?

[22:14:47] Asad: Um...everything affected our business because we were Jew- it was awful yeah, because my, my father one time, no, my uncle one time he was, during 1963, two, three weeks after the, the revolution he was driving from Diwaniya to Baghdad, he was stopped in the Hellas area and he was - uh...and they looked at his uh, uh, identification, "Oh you are Jewish, come with us." So they arrested him. [22:15:26] They put a revolver uh, at his head. They said, "You know you are Jewish, we can kill you." But then uh, we had one of the close friends with them in the car, an older woman, and she started to cry and then they released him. Finally they came back to, to Baghdad but that's one of the horror stories that, that, that my family, that my uncle had.

[22:15:50] Interviewer: Your brothers were in Israel then?

[22:15:53] Asad: Yeah.

[22:15:53] Interviewer: So was there any contact between your brothers and...

[22:15:56] Asad: None.

[22:15:57] Interviewer: Did you get letters or did you...

[22:15:58] Asad: Yeah, yeah always, always. You know, like my father used, he, he met them in London in 1955 with uh, with...uh my mother she was there too. So they brought them to, to London. And they met, 1955. That's when they gave them money to buy a, a home, a house, a big house actually, bought in Ramat Gan.

[22:16:29] Interviewer: Did your brothers end up staying in ma'abarot in these like, tent cities?

[22:16:33] Asad: No, they went to the army right away when they came.

[22:16:38] Interviewer: So here you are in Baghdad, your in Frank Eny and the Jewish state is already formed and so this is the 1950's, was there any kind of Zionist activities you were involved in or...?

[22:16:50] Asad: None, none whatsoever. None.

[22:16:51] Interviewer: Were you, did you continue to learn Hebrew at all?

-[22:16:54] Asad: Yeah Hebrew at sch - at the university - at the school, yeah, we did.

[22:16:57] Interviewer: Did you have a bar mitzvah?

[22:16:59] Asad: Yeah, I did.

[22:16:59] Interviewer: Tell me about your bar mitzvah.

[22:17:01] Asad: It was a hug, it was a big one, it was in our, we had a big garden and we had, we had...people came in and uh, we had uh, people wearing [touches mic] smoking like with the tie and the black tie and these are the servants, you know. It was really beautiful. And uh, it was at our hou - in our backyard. We had singing and dancing and the rabbi came and we took, we took pictures and there are a lot of pictures. [22:17:37] I think, probably, in those uh, those DVDs there will be pictures there something.

[22:17:44] Interviewer: Did you learn how to put on t'filin [?] or anything like that?

[22:17:48] Asad: Uh yeah.

[22:17:50] Interviewer: Did you put them on afterward?

[22:17:51] Asad: No, no. No, no.

[22:17:54] Interviewer: And uh, was there like a, was there like a dance and the boys an girls danced or anything?

[22:18:02] Asad: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, we had dance, we had music yeah. Yeah boy and girls were dancing yes. Absolutely, yeah.

[22:18:09] Interviewer: And your, you...

[22:18:11] Asad: Tango. Yeah, serious. Yeah, it was nice, yeah. We had uh, during that period uh, when I was in, in you know, that the school and then even when I went to university uh, we kept the contact, the Jewish, you know, like the boys and girls and we have a lot of Jewish parties at home, dancing parties and all that. [22:18:37] Also we were members in, in clubs. Uh, there was on e The Acropolis and then the other one in Monsour, in Baghdad. Uh...which there, they used to make a lot of parties, the New Yea parties and all that. It was really, really elegant. A lot of Christian people, a lot of Jewish people. [22:19:05] Anyway, uh, my, my uncles finally in, they were released in uh, uh, after they hanged [?], the rest of the Jews in ninth, in January. Uh they were released sometimes in April. After that they, they took my father to, to police stations.

[22:19:26] Interviewer: When was this? In 60...

[22:19:28] Asad: In 60...I was out of Iraq in 1969.

[22:19:32] Interviewer: Okay so let's go back to this period of your experience in Iraq. So '63 you had the revolution.

[22:19:41] Asad: Bad, yeah.

[22:19:43] Interviewer: And then you were a student and...

[22:19:45] Asad: Now here is, I was at the university of Baghdad, you know. When we went back to, to, after the summer of 1963 uh, comes September, or October actually, we were back at the university and my, my school, veterinary [?] medicine was close to an army base. [22:20:11] And I go one day to the, to the, to the university and then all of a sudden we were outside and we saw the airplanes come in and they were bombing. Oh my god, what's going on. All we see, the airplanes coming and then bombing. And this is in October 1963. [22:20:35] And then apparently Abdel Salam Arif he revolted against the Ba'ath party because the Ba'ath party they have killed so many people, they were such a brutal, brutal people. Brutal. And so he overthrew the Ba'ath party and he came to power. [22:20:56] Now this guy, he didn't touch the Jews after he came we really had a break with, with the police and all that. But what happened is they passed a law that Jews cannot sell or buy properties. And that's where, from 1963 to 1968, not matter how my father, you know, like we had land that we tried to sell, he couldn’t do anything.

[22:21:23] Interviewer: And you graduated in what? '65?

[22:21:26] Asad: '65.

[22:21:26] Interviewer: And then what happened after that? Did you stay in Iraq? Leave?

[22:21:31] Asad: No I, I left, I left at the end of 1965 uh...

[22:21:37] Interviewer: Why did you leave?

[22:21:38] Asad: Oh I applied for a passport, I got uh, and admission to the university of California so I applied for a passport, no passport, no passport. Every time I go to the office, "What happened to my application?" "Oh, I don't think you should come back. No, he said, but you can come back maybe in another month." So I knew that they were playing games and we knew that there was no possibility of getting a passport. [22:22:11] So I said, you know what? I just finished school, I might as well, you know, I actually what I did is, um, my cousin, Maurice Kelachi [ph] he had a friend in uh British...embassy. Uh, he, he was an officer there. His name was Menisian [ph]. And he told him that uh, Canada is accepting Jewish people. [22:22:38] So I was talking to my cousin Maurice, I said, "What about Canada?" He said, "Yeah, why don't you apply?" So I said okay. So I applied after I graduated. I just graduated and I put an application. Within two months I got admission from Canada. Okay. What do I do now? But in the meantime I'm waiting for a passport, no passport. Finally I said, you know what? To hell with it. I'm leaving. [22:23:05] My parents were very upset because they didn't want me to leave and I said, you know what? No, that's it, that's it. I see the writing on the wall, I, I, I don't see any future here, in this country. So anyway, that's how we arranged there, my father arranged with a friend of his, he knows some contact and that contact had a contact in Basra. [22:23:32] So he arranged it for me that I take an airplane, I buy two-way ticket back, the, I remember the Iraqi airlines, I buy to ticket to go and to come back to Basra but I went one way. They didn't even come to the airport. I took a taxi from home to the airport, go to Basra, arrive to Basra, somebody came to me when I arrived at the airport. He said, "come with me now." It was a, I don't know who he was actually. [22:24:03] But they knew that I came, I came there. I had one, one suitcase so I, I go in a taxi with him and he take me to a house, a smuggler house and it was Friday. It was Friday around 6 o'clock started to get dark. I was really scared. I was in the house all by myself and he gave me a pillow and a blanket and I slept on the floor. [22:24:34] And I will, I said, "Oh my god, I think I want to go back to Baghdad, I said, this is too scary for me." Then at seven, six o’clock in the mo - of course I couldn’t sleep all night. At six o'clock in the morning he came to me and he said, "Let's go now", very quietly. Another taxi, I arrived in a taxi with my suitcase. Then we go to a boat, an open boat. [22:25:02] And uh...we go into the boat with my suitcase and he started driving. He drove on the, on the water for about maybe half an hour. Then we get to a police station, the police stopped us and he gave them five dinars, I remember this very distinctly and then they let us go. By then they - he took me to another house in nowhere and, in an orchard of palm trees. [22:25:32] So I sit in the house four hours, I was so scared all by myself. I don't know whe - what, what am I facing, you know? Finally they came back and he said to me, "Let's go." So we walked with my suitcase. I walked for about maybe 20 minutes. Then there was another river, we went in another boat and we crossed another river. [22:25:56] And then he took me to a guy who was waiting for me form the Jewish agency, no he said, he told me, "Go to the police just tell them that you just came from Baghdad." So I go to the police station, I said, listen, I just arrived from Baghdad. The policeman, right away, he phones somebody from the Jewish agency. He said, "Are you Jewish?" I said, "Yes." And this guy came in. I remember his name was Fredoun Foulari [ph]. I remember his name. [22:26:26] He came in a pickup truck, picked me up and he took me to a, to his store, he had a store. I bought a few things uh...I remember I bought cheese and he said uh, "You should buy this ham." I said, "Never! I said, I don't want - he was Jewish, you know - I said, no, no, no please, no, no ham." I swear.[laughs] I was so scared. So finally I said ok, um, I bought cheese and I bought a bottle of milk and then we went to the synagogue, he dropped me at the synagogue. [22:27:02] At the synagogue it was a run-down place but uh I slept on the floor was not nice really. Anyway so I stayed there for about 10 days until uh, no actually, I stayed, I stayed two days. The next day I had to go to the police station. I went to the police station, they asked me all kinds of questions about Iraq. They had somebody, investigator, "Why did you leave? What do you know about Iraq? You know we are here to help you. Tell us all you can know about the Iraqi government. [22:27:43] So I told them whatever I knew at the time. Finally um, uh, uh, I said uh, he made me some certificate, he said now with this certificate you can go to Teheran. So the next day I took - I bought a ticket and I, I talked to, I took the train and went to Teheran.

[22:28:08] Interviewer: So during this period, when you're staying there and you're talking to people, you're speaking Arabic?

[22:28:14] Asad: English.

[22:28:15] Interviewer: You're speaking English?

[22:28:15] Asad: Yeah, English and Ar - whoever, the, the woman an in the synagogue uh, the Iranian synagogue she spoke full, fully Arabic, Iraqi dialect. They were Iraqi origin. And uh, but with the police was all English.

[22:28:36] Interviewer: Which you had learned at Frank Eny.

[22:28:38] Asad: Oh yeah, I spoke English very well and also at the university was, everything was English.

[22:28:43] Interviewer: Everything was in English.

[22:28:44] Asad: Everything was in English, no Arabic.

[22:28:46] Interviewer: And you knew no Farsi.

[22:28:48] Asad: No, no Farsi, no. I didn't know any Farsi, no. So I went to Teheran, I arrived to Teheran and uh, I took a taxi. I said to him, "I want you to take me to the Israeli uh, no, no...this, Fredoun Foulari he gave me an address. He said, "When you arrive to Teheran you go to this place." [22:29:08] I go there and it was a refugee camp and here I am, I'm dressed up with this tie. I looked at the place, I said, "No way I can stay here. No way." So I run to the taxi, I said, "Don't go, please don't go, don't go, don't go. Take me to the Israeli embassy." So he took me to - it was the consulate actually. It was Friday afternoon at two o'clock. [22:29:31] I knock on the door and one man come - came out and he said, "What do you want?" I said, "Listen, I'm from Iraq and they sent me to this place, I said, I will never go there. Find me a spot." He said, "Okay. Then you go to this hotel. Hotel Sinai." So I go to hotel Sinai, it was, oh my god, it's a different world. [laughs] [22:29:56] So I arrived there and I registered, they, they took me without a passport or anything and from then on...I'm trying to remember, oh I had a cousin of mine there uh, Eva [Last name]. Probably you know her, Eva [last name?]. Yeah, Eva yeah, so she was in Teheran. So I call her...I call her and I said, "Eva, I'm here." [22:30:22] She said, "What? She said, I'm going to send you the car right away." So here comes like Iraq, a chauffeur-driven car and she took me to her house. I had dinner there but I stayed at the hotel Sinai for ten days. And I, she helped me on the process of how to apply for and all that. I applied and uh, applied uh, for uh, they call it [inaudible] which is a laissez-passer. So finally I got the laissez-passer then I went to the Canadian embassy. [22:31:01] Oh, I arranged that the - with Menissian [ph] in Iraq that the visa will arrive to Teheran and I go there and I claim it. I went there, I claimed it, he stamped it right away, immigrant to, to, to Canada. Approved immigration to Canada. And with this I went to, after that I went to Israel, I stayed with my, for the first time I saw my brothers since 1951. It was, it was really emotional to see them. [22:31:34] And I stayed with, with my brother.

[22:31:39] Interviewer: Did they come to the airport to meet you?

[22:31:41] Asad: No, I arrived at the, they didn't know. And I didn't know their addresses or anything. Actually, that's funny, I arrived to Tel Aviv. I don't know anybody but I had an address of a friend of mine of ours the name and phone number given to me from somewhere, I don't remember how it was given to me. So I uh... I think maybe Eva or somebody from Teheran. Anyway, I got his name and phone number. [22:32:10] I phoned him and he said, "Come to my house." So I go to his house, he was a lawyer, Iraqi lawyer. I go to his house and he started looking under the names. Daniel Seson, my brother changed their name Daniel Seson, Eli Seson, Yohav Seson [ph] so I'm trying...he's trying to find lot of Daniel Seson...which one is Daniel Seson. So he started phoning first tow, three, four, he said, "You remember if there is a brother, you have a brother, his name is Asad?" [22:32:46] And one of them jumped. He said, "What?" I said, yes. He said, "Yes. Where are you?" He said. So he came in with his car, he picked me up and I go to his house. I stayed with him for a while actually in Israel I stayed. Until I got on my, I got visas for London, Switzerland. My parents had an account in Switzerland, I had to go and talk to them and then uh, I had money in London waiting for me so I arrived to London. I had to go to London. [22:33:25] My uncle was there in London. I stayed with my uncle and then afterward I came to Canada.

[22:33:32] Interviewer: So go back to Israel for a second. What was your impression of Israel when you went in 1965?

[22:33:40] Asad: My brothers told me, "You must leave, don't stay here. He said, he said don't stay here. We don't want you to stay here."

[22:33:49] Interviewer: Why did they say that?

[22:33:51] Asad: He said it's very hard, there's a lot of discrimination uh...that's exactly what they said. They said, "You have to leave." And in the meantime somebody, my, my little uh, the other brother, Eliyahu, he was contacted by somebody from the Israeli government. They said, please ask your brother to stay in Israel, not to leave. [22:34:20] And he, he also to me not - he said, "You have to leave right away." The reason why is because when I arrived, both, every one of them is in meloim [ph]. They cannot get time off. They told them that my brother came from, form Baghdad and wanted to see them, they gave him one day. [22:34:40] I remember, it was really so upsetting that I couldn't, I couldn't see them really. I couldn’t be with them all the time because they are - this is in meloim [ph] this is in meloim, everybody is in the meloim. They are going into - it was awful. That was 19, early, that was February '66. Then '67, the war came. [22:35:08] So I guess Israel was preparing for something anyway.

[22:35:12] Interviewer: So you go to Toronto, you’re there in 1966.

[22:35:16] Asad: No, Montreal.

[22:35:17] Interviewer: Montreal, you come to Montreal.

[22:35:18] Asad: Yeah. And Montreal I had to uh, I wasted one year already of my life, I couldn't - so I had to uh, re-establish my contacts with the university of California and, luckily, they, right away they gave me the, the admission again. I told them I said, "Listen, I didn't have an opportunity, the passport, this, this, this, this." So they send me the admission again.

[22:35:45] Interviewer: What university was this?

[22:35:46] Asad: University of California in Davis.

[22:35:48] Interviewer: And what did you study there?

[22:35:50] Asad: Uh, it was specialty in small animal practice.

[22:35:54] Interviewer: And how long were you there for?

[22:35:56] Asad: Two years.

[22:35:57] Interviewer: And then youc ame back to Canada?

[22:35:59] Asad: Yeah.

[22:36:00] Interviewer: To where?

[22:36:02] Asad: Uh, to Toronto.

[22:36:04] Interviewer: And why not Montreal? Why Toronto?

[22:36:06] Asad: Um, because of the French language, it was very hard to find a place...very hard to find work there. Toronto [snaps] just like that I found this - I started working.

[22:36:22] Interviewer: And what was, did you have a practice?

[22:36:26] Asad: I didn't have my practice no. I worked, I worked uh, I started with, working for the government but I in part-time practice for long, long time and then I left the government, then I went into practice. Then I became a consultant uh, I had a specialty also in microbiology so I became a food, food safety specialist. [22:36:50] I was the director of food safety of, of, for the in Toronto.

[22:36:58] Interviewer: And uh, when you came to Toronto in '68 I guess, two years later, where did you live? What area did you live in?

22:37:05] Asad: Uh, I, I didn't have any money um...I was really penniless because my money, all I had, my parents they were in jail, they lost everything, thy were supposed to send me money, they couldn't anymore. I can't touch the money they had in Switzerland because it's in their names. I was penniless. [22:37:25] So I, I had no money at all. I was living on five dollars a week. That was my budget, five dollars. Because uh, I had a loan for about 2000 dollars at that time. And uh, yeah, it was hard. Until I started working. Once I started working then it was okay.

[22:37:50] Interviewer: And what area were you living in?

[22:37:51] Asad: But, but, the Annex area.

[22:37:54] Interviewer: In the Annex area.

[22:37:55] Asad: Yeah.

[22:37:56] Interviewer: Did you belong to a synagogue?

[22:37:57] Asad: No, no. No, I went one Saturday to a synagogue. I had, a friend of mine also he was a student at the - actually no, he was my classmate in Baghdad. His name was [touches mic]. Uh, god bless his soul. He's, he passed away. He was my, my classmate and uh he, he was working for Hewlet-Packard in California but he was laid off. [22:38:26] And he came to visit me in California when I was there and he said, "What are you doing?" I said, "You know, I'm going back uh, because I have immigration. It's much easier to..." I didn't know how to apply for, for, for work in the U.S. I mean I applied but uh, al kinds of excuses. There are all kinds of excuses but Canada, I said, you know what? I have immigration, I'm going back to Canada. He said, "You know what? I should apply to Canada too, you know? Because my brother is in Montreal, he said, I should be able to...." I said, "Why don't you?" [22:38:55] So he applied and he, also he got immigration and we, both of us, came together to Toronto. I lived in the Annex, he lived...uh, around west or somewhere, anyway, I don't remember. Anyway so we were close, we used to go together out...out uh, synagogue, at night parties, you know like.

[22:39:15] Interviewer: And did you uh, did you marry?

[22:39:18] Asad: Uh...I got married in 1973.

[22:39:23] Interviewer: And what is your wife's name?

[22:39:24] Asad: Linda.

[22:39:25] Interviewer: And what's her maiden name?

[22:39:27] Asad: Her mother or?

[22:39:28] Interviewer: Her name at birth? Her last name..

[22:39:32] Asad: Shamir.

[22:39:32] Interviewer: Shamir.

[22:39:34] Asad: Linda Shamir. And is she Iraqi also?

[22:39:36] Asad: Yeah, she is Iraqi.

[22:39:38] Interviewer: And how did you meet her?

[22:39:38] Asad: I met her in Israel.

[22:39:40] Interviewer: In Israel.

[22:39:40] Asad: Yeah I, I, my fa - my parents uh, came out in 1971 so every year I go to visit them in Israel and uh, they said there is this Iraqi family that we know and they have a daughter, why don’t you meet her? So we met two months we got married.

[22:40:05] Interviewer: And did she come back with you to Toronto?

[22:40:07] Asad: Yeah.

[22:40:09] Interviewer: And did you have any children?

[22:40:10] Asad: Yeah, we have three children, we have uh, I have, the eldest one is Carol, the middle one is Jennifer and the other one is David.

[22:40:18] Interviewer: And where do they live?

[22:40:19] Asad: They live in Tor - Carol lives in Thornhill, she has a medical practice. David, Jennifer she lives uh, on, around Bay, the Bay area, Bay street area. She has a condo there and she is married, she has one daughter. And the young one, David, he is uh, he also lives not far from her on Bay street, also in a condo. And uh...

[22:40:54] Interviewer: And when you, and when you had your practice and your family, what area of Toronto were you living in?

[22:41:02] Asad: Well after, after I got married uh, we were renting a place all over the city actually. I don't remember but then bought, my first townhouse. We didn't have too much money. I buy the townhouse around Bayview and uh, Thornhill area and we lived in that for five years. Then by that time I bought a, another house in Thornhill also around Bathurst and Steeles area. [22:41:38] And we lived in there for 18 years. and then...I bought another house south in the Finch, Bathurst area and we moved there.

[22:41:50] Interviewer: Were you a member of a synagogue in Toronto?

[22:41:53] Asad: I wasn't a member of a synagogue, no.

[22:41:58] Interviewer: Were you active in any Jewish organizations?

[22:42:01] Asad: Uh...I, we started the Iraqi-Jewish association back in 1976.

[22:42:08] Interviewer: You were one of the founders?

[22:42:08] Asad: I was one of the founders yeah. And the reason why we started it is because well, Saddam Hussein, he put and ad that we want all the Iraqi just to come to Iraq and we knew that he was lying and we knew also with all the atrocities what happened to Iraq, how many people got killed. My classmate [name] Bahar, he was taken into the prison and never came out. [22:42:34] That's, that's the one I know. And then I know that I heard about all the rest of them that were hanged, that were killed like the Hodzbeda [ph], the father of Asamya and Sabat [ph] Behar, you know them. Yeah. The hodzbeda [ph].

[22:42:53] Interviewer: Who else helped you co-found that club in 1976?

[22:42:56] Asad: Uh we were about ten people. It was me, uh, Jonah Shaptai [ph], Naheim Dellal [ph] um Maurice Young [ph], Shaoa Elzir [ph]...uh...Oharon Lawi [ph] and uh...and uh...David Sofer, David Sofer.

[22:43:29] Interviewer: And um...over, from '76 to today...

[22:43:34] Asad: The first activity we did is we are - organized a High Holiday synagogue according to the Iraqi service.

[22:43:41] Interviewer: And where was that?

[22:43:43] Asad: We held it at different locations because we didn't have a location so we used to rent a place in a school. There was a school called Winchvesky on Bathurst and uh, and uh Bathurst and Lawrence area. So we rented a place there and we always had it for social events and for uh, High Holidays.

[22:44:06] Interviewer: What kind of social events?

[22:44:07] Asad: Uh we used to have lecturers come in and visitors come in, taking to us and whoever comes from outside we used, we used to do the Purim, the high holidays uh, whenever there is a Jewish festival we used to, to gather together, you know.

[22:44:25] Interviewer: You and your wife, what language did you speak at home together?

[22:44:28] Asad: Uh, Arabic, mainly Arabic.

[22:44:31] Interviewer: And your children, do they speak Arabic?

[22:44:32] Asad: No.

[22:44:34] Interviewer: And did, with your friends, in this club, did you speak Arabic?

[22:44:40] Asad: Yes.

[22:44:41] Interviewer: And your wife, did she cook Iraqi food?

[22:44:45] Asad: Yeah, yeah.

[22:44:46] Interviewer: And what are your favourite foods?

[22:44:49] Asad: Everything. Everything is favourite.

[22:44:51] Interviewer: Tell me something.

[22:44:52] Asad: Uh well we have the tebit is one of. Tebit, bamya uh, ingri [ph] uh...salona, [???], what else, kebab [???], kebab [???], these are all food that...

[22:45:12] Interviewer: And when you have activities do the wives cook the foods so everyone...?

[22:45:16] Asad: Yeah. Yeah everybody brought something yeah.

[22:45:20] Interviewer: And are these activities, is the club still existing today?

[22:45:23] Asad: No, actually, unfortunately it became very religious. We, what happened is the Winchevsky was out of...we couldn't find a place where we can meet. At the end there was - there was an opportunity, a new synagogue was built on Bathurst and Steeles, the Kahila Centre. So we approached them actually uh...[22:45:49] Naim Delal [ph], Renia Delal, she was, his wife was the president, she approached them and they were open to us. So we got a spot there and uh, we became members we, were members in their synagogue initially but then finally we separated into the Iraqi entity and we have now the services. Every Saturday there is a service. My wife always liked to go every Saturday. I don't like it but she, she likes it. I go with her.

[22:46:20] Interviewer: So let me ask you some final questions um...How do you, what kind of identity, if someone asked you who you are in terms of your identity how would you define yourself?

[22:46:31] Asad: Iraq.

[22:46:32] Interviewer: Iraq.

-[22:46:33] Asad: Yeah. Iraqi, that's it. I mean, what else am I going to identify? I can't say Canadian. I'm Canadian, actually and I love this country. I lived in this country, this has been a, a miracle for me to be in this country really, I mean, I...thank god for what we have done here. Thank god. I mean I have my children, well educated...I'm so grateful to this country but I'm still Iraqi. [22:47:00] And I meet with Muslims I...I have two Muslims, one is a gynaecologist, Dr. Mahmoud and the other one is a biologist, Dr. Hassem Attar [ph]. Uh...maybe once a year we meet. But this week they, they invited us a party, an Arabic party. So we are going and Delal is going too.

[22:47:27] Interviewer: Do you consider yourself a refugee or a migrant? How do you view yourself?

[22:47:32] Asad: Well, in reality a refugee. The reason why I say I am a refugee because I was forced out of my country by force, really. We were denied employment, we were denied uh...any uh, civil law that was granted to the Muslim people was always twisted against us. [22:47:58] So we would, we did not have all the rights that, that the Muslim people, or the Christian people that lived in Iraq had those rights. One of them is the citizenship. The second one is the passport. Third one is you cannot buy and sell uh, properties. So obviously what else left? If you cannot do all these things then what else left? You have to leave. So you become forced refugee - refugee. Yes, I am a refugee here.

[22:48:41] [sound check]

[22:48:51] Interviewer: I would like to go back and just focus on the claims part of your interview. What....

[22:48:59] [technical adjustment]

[22:49:12] Interviewer: I'd like to go back to the claims part of your interview. What was the name of the brick company?

[22:49:20] Asad: Technical Bricks Company.

[22:49:23] Interviewer: And do you know when it was actually incorporated?

[22:49:28] Asad: Uh...I know it was built in 1947.

[22:49:32] Interviewer: Do you know the address?

[22:49:35] Asad: Yeah, Diwaniya.

[22:49:36] Interviewer: The actual street address.

[22:49:40] Asad: It was the only one in, in Diwaniya at that time.

[22:49:45] Interviewer: You mentioned a warehouse...

[22:49:47] Asad: And in fact uh, everybody, after, in 1956 they built another factory but all the Muslims they said, "You have to go and buy from, from the Jews." The reason why is the quality because my father brought all kinds of missionaries from Germany and used to make the brick like when you put them together it's like iron. You're hitting iron together, you know. So the quality was really amazing and...uh, the, the, the production was sold by ten o'clock in the morning. They used to, people used to come and begging for, for, for the brick at that time.

[22:50:30] Interviewer: There was a warehouse...

[22:50:32] Asad: So it was only one, one Jewish factory, factory in Diwaniya.

[22:50:36] Interviewer: There was a warehouse for oil that was kept you said.

[22:50:38] Asad: Yes.

[22:50:39] Interviewer: Do you know the name of...

[22:50:41] Asad: Uh...uh...that was confiscated by the government because they passed a law that nobody should own anything with oil.

[22:50:51] Interviewer: Do you know the - did it have a name?

[22:50:52] Asad: It was also in Diwaniya. It was the only one.

[22:50:55] Interviewer: Again, but no address that you...

[22:50:57] Asad: No I don't know.

[22:50:58] Interviewer: The home that you had in Diwaniya, do you know the street that that was on?

[22:51:05] Asad: I was on the river, right on the river.

[22:51:06] Interviewer: On the river. Do you remember the address?

[22:51:09] Asad: It became, it became a post office afterward because my parents they kept, they owned it but they didn't want to live in it after what they did to it.

[22:51:17] Interviewer: Did they sell it or did the government take it?

[22:51:19] Asad: They, they sold it.

[22:51:21] Interviewer: They sold it to the government. The fields. Where were the, the rice fields and the farm fields?

[22:51:27] Asad: Uh...Shamiya, Shamiya in Iraq, which was a suburb of Diwaniya, it was half an hour from...

[22:51:34] Interviewer: And uh, did they sell that land?

[22:51:39] Asad: No. Uh, they passed a law in 1968 after Adbel Al-Karim Kassem came to power. He passed a law that nobody should own more than - more than 1000 uh, donem on fields.

[22:51:54] Interviewer: And so the government -

[22:51:55] Asad: An the government took...

[22:51:55] Interviewer: ...confiscated it...

[22:51:56] Asad: Yeah. Everything.

[22:51:57] Interviewer: Did your father make an appeal with the government?

[22:52:00] Asad: No.

[22:52:00] Interviewer: try to get anything back?

[22:52:01] Asad: No but, but that was for everybody, Muslims too.

[22:52:07] Interviewer: What about the factory, did your father make an appeal to try to get that back?

[22:52:11] Asad: Uh...he tried, he tried but no, not really. Everything failed. Everything failed.

[22:52:21] Interviewer: So all his properties, did he have other properties in Baghdad?

[22:52:25] Asad: In Baghdad yeah, my mother she had...three pieces of land on the river.

[22:52:31] Interviewer: In Baghdad?

[22:52:32] Asad: In Baghdad. It's called Al-mahanazir [ph]. That's the name of the area an, and I think that’s where now a university or something is built. On, on top of the land.

[22:52:45] Interviewer: Was that land confiscated?

[22:52:48] Asad: It was - they left it.

[22:52:49] Interviewer: They left it.

[22:52:50] Asad: Yeah.

[22:52:50] Interviewer: Did they ever try to get claim to it again?

[22:52:55] Asad: I made a claim in 19 - in 2006. I filled out application about all the lands, the brick factory, the lands of high Al-Manazir [ph] but uh, we sent it by courier to Baghdad, they claimed that we are going to comp -to compensate now people who left their properties after Saddam Hussein left. But really nothing came out, out of it. Nothing.

[22:53:25] Interviewer: Did you ever fill out claim forms for - by the Israeli government?

[22:53:31] Asad: I think my parents did yeah, yeah, they did.

[22:53:33] Interviewer: And what about Justice for Jews from Arab Countries? Did you ever fill out forms that they put together?

[22:53:40] Asad: I didn't but I don't know if my brother did in Israel. He always filled out the forms. I don't know. He, he, all these documents my brother keeps. I don't have patience for these documents anymore.

[22:53:51] Interviewer: What's your brother's name again?

[22:53:52] Asad: Samir.

[22:53:53] Interviewer: Samir last name?

[22:53:54] Asad: Yeah, Muallim, Samir Muallim yeah.

[22:53:57] Interviewer: You said he had changed his name to [overlap]

[22:53:59] Asad: No, no he didn't change his name. Samir he stayed but he is, his Hebrew name is Jacob.

[22:54:05] Interviewer: Jacob. and he lives where?

[22:54:07] Asad: Ramat Gan.

[22:54:09] Interviewer: In Ramat Gan. And um...did um...the Israeli government now uh, uh, Iraqi government uh, has agreed to give compensation to people who had suffered during World War II under the Nazi influence. Did your family ever put in any kind of claim because of their suffering?

[22:54:38] Asad: My parents are gone. I don't know who will be claiming what.

[22:54:42] Interviewer: Your brothers uh...uncles?

[22:54:46] Asad: My, my brother Eliyahu he was here a month ago. He was with me for three weeks and he told me he put an application for something Nazis. I don't know what it is.

[22:55:01] Interviewer: And do you follow up with any of the claims that you put in?

[22:55:06] Asad: No.

[22:55:06] Interviewer: 2006? So at this point you've received no compensation in terms of any of the land that was taken from you, the factory from you family, etc.

[22:55:16] Asad: No.

[22:55:20] Interviewer: Okay, thank you very much.