When Iraqi Jews Participated in the Ottoman Government

April 22 2019

Although there are now no more than a handful of Jews in Iraq, the country was once home to one of the oldest of all diaspora communities—dating back to the Babylonian exile of the 6th century BCE. Annie Greene, in a brief history of this community, describes the period when Jews became part of political life:

Iraq became Ottoman territory in the mid-16th century. During the mid-19th century, the Ottoman empire went through modernizing reforms known as the Tanzimat, [which] provided pathways for Iraqi Jews to participate in the Ottoman government. For example, the delegates to provincial administrative councils were required to reflect local religious diversity. For the province containing the city of Baghdad, [with its large non-Muslim population], there had to be Jewish delegates to the provincial administrative council, as well as Christians and Muslims.

The provincial councils served as good practice to incorporate Jews into the Ottoman governing structure. The first Ottoman parliament in 1877–78 included a Jewish member, Menahim Salih Efendi Daniyal, among the four who were sent from Baghdad. After the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, Sasson Efendi Hasqail was elected to the parliament for Baghdad and was returned to this seat twice more until the dissolution of the empire in 1918. In contrast to the situation for provincial councils, there were no mandatory religious quotas for parliamentary seats. That Menahim Salih Efendi and Sasson Efendi were elected in their respective parliamentary eras speaks to their status as individuals from prominent families and the way elite Jewish men were viewed in Ottoman-Iraqi political society.

The situation had changed radically by 1941, when bloody pogroms broke out throughout the country, ushering in a period of fierce anti-Semitism and persecution of Iraqi Jews.

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Read more at Katz Center

More about: Babylonian Jewry, Iraq, Iraqi Jewry, Ottoman Empire

How China Equips the Islamic Republic to Repress Its People

In its dedication to bringing totalitarianism into the 21st century, the Chinese Communist party has developed high-tech forms of surveillance using facial-recognition software, a vast system of “social credit,” and careful control over its subjects’ cellular phones. Even stricter and more invasive measures are applied to the Uyghurs of the northwestern part of the country. Beijing is also happy to export its innovations in tyranny to allies like Iran and Russia. Playing a key role in these advances is a nominally private company called Tiandy Technologies. Craig Singleton describes its activities:

Both Tiandy testimonials and Chinese-government press releases advertise the use of the company’s products by Chinese officials to track and interrogate Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. According to human-rights groups, Chinese authorities also employ Tiandy products, such as “tiger chairs,” to torture Uyghurs and other minorities.

Iran has long relied on China to augment its digital surveillance capabilities, and Tehran was an early adopter of Beijing’s “social-credit” system, which it wields to assess citizens’ behavior and trustworthiness. . . . Iranian government representatives have publicized plans to leverage smart technologies, including AI-powered face recognition, to maintain regime stability and neutralize dissent. Enhanced cooperation with China is central to those efforts.

At present, Tiandy is not subject to U.S. sanctions or export controls. In light of Tiandy’s operations in both Xinjiang and Iran, policymakers should consider removing the company, its owner, and stakeholders from the international financial system and global supply chains.

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Read more at FDD

More about: China, Human Rights, Iran, Totalitarianism, U.S. Foreign policy