2021 marked the 80th anniversary of Farhud*—a two-day pogrom against Baghdad Jewry. Following a failed pro-Nazi coup d’état in 1941, angry Muslim rioters killed 175 Jews, injured 1000, and robbed and destroyed 900 Jewish homes. Many Jewish girls were raped and children maimed in front of their families. BBC Radio 4’s religious and ethical news program Sunday decided to feature a short segment about Farhud, and producer Carmel Lonergan contacted me to arrange for a Zoom interview.


It was raining heavily that May morning in 2019. I reluctantly walked into the law firm’s office in Auckland, greeted Joy, the receptionist and legal assistant, and took a seat, waiting for the lawyer to witness my will. I heard him talking to a client in French, which I’d studied many years ago at the Centre Culturel Francais in Baghdad, but could hardly communicate in anymore. I wondered what might have happened to our Profs there. … Damn it! I hate that my thoughts always end up taking me back to my days in Iraq.


In memory of the horrendous attack at the mosques in New Zealand, a defence of migrants, refugees, and a plea for moderation to confront the extremism that threatens further attacks.  


Can literature widden the scope of our understanding of the nations of the Middle East away from Orientalism and ISIS to include the struggle of a middle class that continues to fight for reform in the region?   


A translated excerpt from a memoir describing Iraq during the Gulf War and the misery and uncertainty plaguing those living in war zones.  


The lifting of the driving ban marks a new era for women in Saudi Arabia, but why do US Liberals seem muted in their advocacy for similar progressive social policies around the Muslim world?  


A personal reassessment of the exodus of Jewish Iraqis to Israel through published histories, biographies, and novels.   


Who—in this shamelessly visual age—would bother to read an analysis of the Muslim world’s modern history when ISIS is swamping social media with ghastly short videos whose impact on viewers is often irrevocable? What can my apologetic writings change if the Pandora’s Box of fear has been opened and is indiscriminately spreading poison?


The next time you read an inspiring book, listen to an enchanting melody or even pass by a well-structured piece in some boutique window, do not be surprised if it turns out to be the work of another “architect on hold" struggling to reconcile theory and practice in the contemporary world. 


Putting up with the hectic world of social media is not the sole challenge contemporary authors are facing. We are expected to master performance art and entertain an audience not only through our written work, but also by means of public talks and appearances. 

Ali Shakir's picture
Ali Shakir
Iraqi-born, New Zealand-based architect and author, his articles and essays—in Arabic and English—appeared in several newspapers and literary journals in the Arab world, England, the United States and New Zealand.


Cafe Fayrouz: A Novel Except for One Chapter
ASP INC. | 2015
A Muslim on the Bridge: On Being an Iraqi-Arab Muslim in the Twenty-First Century
Signal 8 Press | 2013
Saddam and I, and the Stockholm Syndrome
Dar Elthaqafa Elgedeeda | 2018
Letters by Violette: A Journey Through the Life of Baghdad Jewry (Arabic translation of Memories of Eden by Violette Shamash)
ASP INC. | 2020
Ko Aotearoa Tatou | We Are New Zealand: An Anthology (contributor)
Otago University Press | 2020