Novel inspired by Jewish brothers' arrests in 1950s Iraq

Fawzi Ibrahim wrote a book about his family's story in 1950s Iraq

Fawzi Ibrahim wrote a book about his family's story in 1950s Iraq - Credit: Archant

A Cricklewood author has published a novel inspired by the story of his Jewish family in 1950s Iraq. 

Fawzi Ibrahim was born in Baghdad in 1943 and, aged 16,  came to the UK. He trained as an electronic engineer and soon settled in Brent. 

In May 1948 martial law was declared in Iraq and two of the author’s older brothers were arrested on suspicion of being communists.  

One brother confessed and was imprisoned in a desert jail for eight years – the other walked free. Um-Kamal: Mother of Kamal, Fawzi's debut novel, looks at what happened to his family. 

The 79-year-old said: “I left Iraq early, before the rest of my family, so things that happened are glimpses. I was never sure whether what I perceived in my memory was actually true or not. So, I wanted to find out.” 

Fawzi Ibrahim published Um-Kamal: Mother of Kamal last month

Fawzi Ibrahim published Um-Kamal: Mother of Kamal last month - Credit: Archant

The projected started ten years ago and with his daughter, Fawzi travelled to Canada, America, and Israel to interview the six of seven siblings who were still alive about how they remembered the events.  

According to Fawzi, the topic was rarely discussed in his family and many questions remained unsolved: Why did his two brothers get arrested? Why does one get eight years and the other gets out? Did the older brother pressure the younger into confessing or did the younger brother try and save the older? 

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To capture the uncertainty of his own family history, Fawzi decided to write a novel rather than an autobiography. 

While the book follows the youngest brother as he tries to uncover what happened, it is also centred around the mother.   

Fawzi said: “Women are often hidden but in fact women are central. Without mothers and their hard work, there would be no family. They are the central core of society.” 

The author remembers Iraq as a country where “chaos is coupled with beauty".

"The place is absolutely beautiful but chaotic, and dusty," he said. 

The Cricklewood resident taught at the College of North West London for 27 years until retirement, and stood as an independent anti-war candidate at the Brent by-election in 2003. 

The book is available at kfipublishing.com