Jewish refugees from Triploi arrive in Haifa 521.
(photo credit: Arnold Behr/Jerusalem Post Archives)
Charly Atrakchi was born into a wealthy family in Basra, Iraq, in 1957, the son
of Kobi (Yaakov), a textile importer and one of seven siblings.
“We had a
large house with several stories and my father owned large date plantations
which produced both dates and date honey,” Atrakchi told The Jerusalem Post on
Monday at the “Justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries” international
conference of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
After the Ba’athist coup in
1968, Atrakchi’s home was put under surveillance, the telephone lines were cut
and the family needed official permission for any journey they wished to
“On November 8, 1968, a Friday morning, I woke up to the sounds of
screaming and shouting,” Atrakchi recalls. My mother and my father’s parents,
who lived with us, were pleading with Iraqi soldiers, begging them not to take
“That was the last time we saw him,” said Atrakchi
After a month or so, Iraqi state radio began reporting that a
network of Israeli spies had been uncovered, he said. “We were glued to the
radio broadcasts and one evening we heard a report declaring that my father was
the contact man for a network of 14 spies who had been arrested.”
spies, including nine Jews but not including Atrakchi, were put on trial, found
guilty of spying for Israel and sentenced to death by hanging.
father, Iraqi officials declared, was the second-in-command of the spy ring but
had escaped from prison, explaining why he was not tried.
Atrakchi however, an elderly Jewish suspect who had been arrested on suspicion
of spying but subsequently released, later told the family that their father had
been tortured and executed in front of them in order to coerce the other
suspects into confessing to the espionage charges.
The 14 men, 11 from
Baghdad and three from Basra, were hanged on January 28, 1969 and their corpses
put on public display in their respective cities the following
“500,000 people turned out to celebrate in Baghdad. They handed out
sweets and fruit juice, and rejoiced,” Atrakchi said.
The family remained
under surveillance for another two years before they finally fled the country in
the summer of 1971. Taking one piece of hand luggage each, the family pretended
to be going on vacation to northern Iraq and took a train to
From there they made their way to the northeastern city of
Kirkuk and, with the help of Kurdish smugglers, the Atrakchis crossed into Iran
across mountainous terrain and made their way to Tehran where the Jewish Agency
took care of them.
On August 10, 1971 the Atrakchis landed in Israel.
Charly, a project manager in a hi-tech firm, is married to the daughter of
refugees from Germany who left that country in the 1930s. They and their three
children live in Shoham.
“I very much hope the [Foreign Ministry]
campaign succeeds,” he said. “The stories of the Jewish refugees must be
preserved and recognized and I will do everything I can to help achieve this