IRAQI JEWISH WRITERS
their families and wash off the disgrace attributed to the family.
The complex attributes of honour killings delineated in Arabic literary works can guide us to have a better understanding of honour killings as a social phenomenon. As literature vividly conceptualizes the complex web of relations between individual and society from multiple points of view while narrating actions in their social context, it is an important tool in terms of understanding the dynamics of such a phenomenon. It is no coincidence that only a few years before al-Mulla published her story, the Iraqi poet Nazik alMala’ika (1923-2007) wrote one of the major literary cries against honour killing in Arab societies. Her poem “Ghaslan li-l-‘Ar” (Washing Away the Shame) (1957) tells the story of a young woman, aged twenty, killed by her brother, the “executioner”, in order to “wash away the shame”.The poem encapsulates the liberal cry among Arab writers against the issue of family honour; this view was shared by Arab-Jewish authors such as Ya‘qub Balbul (1920-2003) in “Sura Tibqa al-Asl” (True Copy) – two brothers murder their own sister because she is pregnant. In Shalom Darwish’s (1913-1997) story “Ba‘da Suqooṭ al-Basra” (After the Fall of Basra), Jamila is raped by Farid, and as a result of losing her honour, she prefers to let people think that she has become mad. She blames herself for an act for which she is not responsible. In al-Mulla’s story the father actually loses his mind following the rape of his daughter – the option that Nahiya is to blame for her tragedy never occurs to him. While murder for family honour has never been practised among Iraqi Jews, the fact that these writers dealt with such a negative practice only proves that Iraqi-Jewish authors felt themselves, at the time, to be an integral part of the Iraqi nation and society.
1 According to information from her family, one of her grandfathers used to visit the neigh- bouring towns and villages to sell his merchandise and help the locals in writing letters and petitions which caused them to call him Mulla (Mullah), which literally means, a Muslim scholar and teacher. 2 Particularly on www.akhbaar.org (accessed on 25 July 2020). For a list of her works, see Khalida Hatim ʿAlwan, Hafriyyat Unthawiyya: Dirasa fi al-Qass al-Niswi al-‘Iraqi al-Yahudi alMughayyab [Feminist Diggings: A Study of Hidden Feminist Iraqi Jewish Fiction] (Baghdad: Dar wa-Maktabat ‘Adnan, 2016), pp. 31-34. 3 The story was published in al-Musawwar (Baghdad) in 1951 (precise issue and date are not available); republished in Shmuel Moreh, al-Qissa al-Qasira ‘Inda Yahud al-‘Iraq [Short Stories by Jewish Writers from Iraq]. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1981), pp. 176-178.
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