The Frank Iny School was built in Baghdad, Iraq during the 1940s in order to educate the many Jewish children who remained in Iraq after the taskeet. Frank Iny, after whom the school was named, constructed this school which went on to serve hundreds of Jewish children . Former students of the Frank Iny School recall how the school’s policies changed over time due to the shifts in the Iraqi government. Since most of Iraq’s Jews fled the country in 1951 and the Iraqi monarchy fell in 1958, the few remaining Jews in the country felt pressure to guard their heritage as well as their lives. As such, the Frank Iny School, which had once had prominent and well-attended awards ceremonies and plays, became more discreet in order to avoid catching unwanted attention . Although many Jewish schools had once operated in Iraq, often with the support of the local Jewish community, Iraqi government, or international Jewish organizations in Paris and London, these schools began to close in the 1940s. The Frank Iny School was thus the last Jewish school in Baghdad, but closed in 1973 .
Baghdad was home to the largest Jewish community in Iraq possibly from as early as its founding in the eighth century. By 1908, the Jews of Baghdad numbered around 53,000, about a third of Baghdad’s total population, and lived in many quarters–including al-Tawrat, Tahat it-Takyah, Abu Saifan, and Suq Hannun. Although Jews were involved in local politics, new tensions began to rise between Jews and Muslims–leading to an anti-Jewish riot on October 15, 1908–and World War I forced many Jews to flee the city. In 1948, the Jewish community in Baghdad numbered around 77,000; however, the Jewish community began to fear life in Baghdad after the Farhūd, a pogrom which occured on June 1, 1941, left 130 Jews killed and millions lost in property damange. The Farhūd inspired the growth of Zionism and Communism among a minority of Jews in Baghdad who felt increasingly disconnected from the Iraq state. Bombings throughout the 1950s further estranged the Jewish community, and by 1952 only about 6,000 Jews remained in Iraq. The Jewish community endured further violence throughout Saddam Husayn’s regime, and by 2003 the last synagogue in Baghdad had closed .
 Marina Benjamin, Last Days in Babylon: The Exile of Iraq’s Jews, the Story of My Family (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2006), p. 218, accessed August, 6, 2014, http://books.google.com/books?id=JFHwzjYDjjwC&printsec.
 Ivy, “Such a pity it does not exist anymore,” Iraqi Jews Who Left Baghdad in the 1960’s and 1970’s, N.d., accessed August, 6, 2014, http://iraqijews.awardspace.com/frankiny.html.
 “Personal and Communal Life: School Records,” Preserving the Iraqi Jewish Archive, N.d., accessed August 6, 2014, http://www.ija.archives.gov/exhibit/personal-and-communal-life.
 Yaron Ayalon; Ariel I. Ahram, “Baghdad,” Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman, Brill Online, 2014, Reference, Wellesley College, 19 June 2014 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/baghdad-SIM_000468>.
Last Days in Babylon: The Exile of Iraq’s Jews, the Story of My Family
In Last Days in Babylon, Benjamin delves into the story of her family’s life among the Jews of Iraq in the first half of the twentieth century. When Iraq gained independence in 1932, Jews were the largest and most prosperous ethnic group in Baghdad. They dominated trade and finance, hobnobbed with Iraqi dignitaries, and lived in grandiose villas on the banks of the Tigris. Just twenty years later the community had been utterly ravaged, its members effectively expelled from the country by a hostile Iraqi government. Benjamin’s grandmother Regina Sehayek lived through it all. Born in 1905, when Baghdad was still under Ottoman control, her childhood was a virtual idyll. This privileged existence was barely touched when the British marched into Iraq. But with the rise of Arab nationalism and the first stirrings of anti-Zionism, Regina, then a young mother, began to have dark premonitions of what was to come. By the time Iraq was galvanized by war, revolution, and regicide, Regina was already gone, her hair-raising escape a tragic exodus from a land she loved — and a permanent departure from the husband whose gentle guiding hand had made her the woman she was.
Benjamin’s keen ear and fluid writing bring to life Regina’s Baghdad, both good and bad. More than a stirring story of survival, Last Days in Babylon is a bittersweet portrait of Old World Baghdad and its colorful Jewish community, whose roots predate the birth of Islam by a thousand years and whose culture did much to make Iraq the peaceful desert paradise that has since become a distant memory.
In 2004 Benjamin visited Baghdad for the first time, searching for the remains of its once vital Jewish community. What she discovered will haunt anyone who seeks to understand a country that continues to command the world’s attention, just as it did when Regina Sehayek proudly walked through Baghdad’s streets. By turns moving and funny, Last Days in Babylon is an adventure story, a riveting history, and a timely reminder that behind today’s headlines are real people whose lives are caught — too often tragically — in the crossfire of misunderstanding, age-old prejudice, and geopolitical ambition.
Meet Carole Basri
Carole Basri is senior vice president of Balint, Brown and Basri LLC, a legal staffing company, and is an adjunct professor at Fordham University Law School.
Basri was assistant counsel on the U.S. Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee, and was an attorney at the Federal Trade Commission. She was in-house counsel at the advertising agency of NW Ayer Inc., which she left to become an associate at Baker & McKenzie. Later, she joined Hall, Dickler, Lawler, Kent and Friedman. Basri was in-house counsel at Maidenform Inc. and a consultant to the Perrier Group, Inc. From 1994 to 2002, she was a consultant to Deloitte & Touche LLP, and helped to create its Ethics and Compliance practice.
In 2003, Basri was a member of the U.S. State Department’s “Future of Iraq” Project. She was also a member for the Coalition Provisional Authority, and worked with the Iraqi Reconstruction Development Council on business, anti-corruption and transparency issues in Iraq. Basri also worked with the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the Iraqi Red Crescent on health and legal issues. She is now president of the World Organization of Jews from Iraq. Basri is also a documentary film producer, and recently produced a documentary on hemophiliacs in Iraq who contracted AIDS through tainted blood.
Last Updated: June 15, 2017
In 1950 Baghdad was 40% Jewish. Today a handful of Jews remain. Uncover the shocking facts about the ethnic cleansing of Iraq’s Jews and what it means for peace in the Middle East today. Why has the world been silent about this atrocity? What is the Islamic view of Jewish citizens? The wretched history of Jews in Arab countries makes a strong case for Israel.
WATCH: the “Taskeet” – Ethnic Cleansing of Iraqi Jews!