Saturday, July 28, 2007

Iraqi Jew fights to reclaim grandfather's estate


David Kahtan

The British-born son of an Iraqi Jew is fighting to reclaim his grandfather’s estate in the war-torn country, 25 years after his death, Dana Gloger of The Jewish Chronicle reports.

David Kahtan’s father fled Iraq in 1967, but his grandfather Saleh Kahtan was unable to leave. When he died in 1971, he left a sizeable estate.

“My grandfather was a lawyer, landowner and a member of parliament. He owned an important market in Baghdad, which under international law he technically still owns, as well as markets in Basra,” Mr Kahtan told the JC.

However, when he died, all his assets were frozen. “All the other members of his family had fled Iraq and the previous regime [Saddam Hussein’s] was not very approachable, so no-one had tried to get his estate back before,” Mr Kahtan, 31, said.

With his New-York based cousin, David Yudin, 29, he set about trying to retrieve the family inheritance.

In 2004, after Saddam Hussein’s ruling Ba’athist party was overthrown, The Iraqi Claims Commission invited anyone who had their property seized between 1968 and 2003 to apply to reclaim their assets.

“That’s what motivated me,” said Mr Kahtan, a banker from Surrey. He put in an application to reclaim the estate around three years ago, but has heard nothing, despite trying to chase it up.

He has now written to the British Foreign Office, in the hope that this will help him pursue his cause.

Meanwhile, he continues to conduct his own research into his family’s history. He has written a thesis on Jews in Iraq and has spent considerable time researching at Britain’s National Archives.

He has also become involved with the Iraq in Common project, which launched in May 2006. It aims to bring together people under 35 years, of all religions, with Iraqi heritage.

“Jews were very involved in Iraqi life. Even the country’s first financial minister was Jewish,” Mr Kahtan said.

“It is now high time for the world community to look beyond the Palestinian Arab refugees — refugees who fled as a result of wars — and turn their attention towards redressing the injustice inflicted on the nearly one million Jews of all Arab lands, who were law-abiding citizens and certainly not at war with the countries they were expelled from.”

Read article in full

No comments: