A ceremony marking the deportation of Jews from Iraq seven decades ago is held for the first time today in the country’s autonomous Kurdish region.
It also marks the beginning of Jewish representation in the Kurdistan region’s religious affairs ministry as a result of a law passed in May to promote minority rights.
The ceremony in Kurdistan capital Arbil is attended by Kurds of Jewish origin and officials, who also visit an exhibition of old photographs and records documenting Iraqi Jewry.
According to Sherzad Omar Mamsani, the Jewish representative at the Kurdish regional ministry, the ceremony is the first of its kind and marks what is known as the “Farhud,” the dispossession that led to the flight and deportation of Jews from Iraq.
Mamsani, who has Jewish origins, says he estimates that the families who self-identify as Jews in Kurdistan but are still officially registered to as Muslims number around 400.
He adds that the number of families who converted to Islam but “are Jews in origin” is in the thousands.
There is no active synagogue in the region but Mamsani has said he hopes that will change soon.