Meir Basri, president of the Iraqi
Jewish community, was born on September 11, 1911. He died
on January 3, 2006, aged 94.
Meir Basri had the distinction of being the last president
of the 2,600-year-old Iraqi Jewish community, at a time
when it has dwindled to a mere handful of 400 mostly elderly
people. The Jewish community of Iraq, the oldest in the
world had once numbered a quarter of a million.
A prolific writer, historian, biographer and poet, Basri
was educated at the alliance Israelite School in Baghdad,
which he left in 1928 to join the inchoate Foreign Ministry
of Iraq following the establishment of the new state under
Hashemite rule; at the age of 17 he had already been fluent
in Arabic, French, English and Hebrew.
With a notable Iraqi politician, Sayyid Ja'afar Abdul Timman,
he was co-founder in the early Thirties of the Baghdad Chamber
of Commerce, which he continued to serve as secretary general
for many years.
Despite the high positions he held and the great respect
he earned among Iraqi Muslims, he suffered great hardship
under the Ba'athist regime; and on January 27, 1969, when
nine members of the Jewish community were hanged in public,
he was detained at the public security compound, where he
was to spend three months.
It was not until 1974 that he was allowed to leave Iraq.
He was given refuge in the Netherlands, which he left after
six months to settle in London.
A letter from TheTimes to Mr. N. Dawood:
Dear Mr. Dawood
Just a note of thanks for the obituary of Meir Basri, which
we were very pleased to be able to publish today. It will
have interested a great many readers, I know, and I hope
it may also have pleased his family and friends. It was
good of you to such trouble on our behalf.
Obituaries desk, The Times
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