REMEMBERING HAYAT SHARARA
did see some degree of tolerance. Opposition parties, including Arab Nationalists, Ba’athists, Communists, and liberals, were permitted to publish newspapers and magazines. The opposition press was outspoken in its criticism of the policies of Abd Al-Karim Qasim, while Sawt al-Sha’ab (The Voice of the People), a mouthpiece of the Communist Party, waged violent tirades against the “Enemies of the Revolution”. When Abd Al-Karim Qasim started to move closer to the centre and right, veering away from the left and the Communist Party, the Ba’ath Party emerged as a significant force. In association with the Nationalists, they successfully played on the public phobia of communism to isolate and undermine the leftists and communists. As part of their campaign, they accused the communists of desecrating the holy Qur’an, which prompted angry demonstrations demanding liquidation of “the infidels”. The battle between the two camps escalated during the trade union elections, which culminated in the Nationalists/Ba’athists taking over.
The Qasim administration grew so weak that lethal assaults on the President’s advocates became a daily occurrence. Qasim himself barely escaped a daylight attempt on his life. On their part, the Ba’athists developed into a formidable political force, and when their second coup attempt brought them back to power in August 1968, they adopted a more tolerant policy, offering clemency to all leftists, liberals, and communists, and reinstating them into their jobs.
It was in that period that Hayat returned to Baghdad, after obtaining a doctoral degree in Russian literature from Moscow University. She had to stay for an extra year beyond her five-year scholarship in order to write her thesis on “Tolstoy as an Artist”. Because she declined to cooperate with the Communist Party officials looking after the Iraqi students, the Soviet authorities refused to issue her a grant for that extra year, and she had to work as a freelance translator with the TASS News Agency, and had to sell most of her clothes in order to complete the final year.
Back in Baghdad, she steered away from political activity and took up a position as a lecturer in Russian literature at Baghdad University’s Faculty of Languages. Two years later, she married Dr Mohammad Saleh Smaisim.
20 BANIPAL 63 – AUTUMN/WINTER 2018