A Jewish refugee from Iraq has done the unthinkable — gone back and bought a house there.
Edwin Shuker, a 62 year-old north Londoner, is one of five families who tell their story as part of a new film called Remember Baghdad.
Mr Shuker’s early memories of Iraq are that it was “booming, pleasure-seeking, and there was inter-communal trust. Jews and Arabs got along”.
But there was “a sea change in attitudes towards Jews” leading to Mr Shuker, aged 16, fleeing the country in 1971 with his family.
But he still remembers a time when “Iraq was one of the most diverse places on earth, more tolerant of its minorities than any European nation”.
After decades of war and instability, Mr Shuker decided to return to the place he still calls home — to ensure Jewish life there remains a possibility.
He explains: “The movie starts with me going back to Baghdad. It was 2015 and I was searching for my childhood home.
“You see me on my journey to buy a house there so I can say the Jews have not all gone. I visit the synagogue; there is only one left. The cemetery is still there as are all the graves.
“I feel a responsibility to go there to maintain the Jewish connection to this land. We are not finished yet.”
The house he has bought in northern Iraq is more “symbolic than anything else,” as he lives most of the time in Finchley, north London. But he says: “I try to visit when the security situation allows.”
He says his fellow Iraqis are “very welcoming” when he is “back home” in Baghdad. “There has been an earthquake change in the attitude to the displaced Jewish people. Iraqis now feel like they have lost a golden community. They recognise Jews played an important part in civilised society.”
The people who think Mr Shuker is “mad” are the Jews. “They don’t understand what is driving me to go back to a place we were forced from.
“I was 16 when we left and I was old enough to remember the good times and the bad times.
“I had wonderful memories but then it became an open prison for Jews.
“Jews were being tortured and we had no choice but to leave.
“The fact we had to leave brings back memories of terror and sadness.”
Mr Shuker says his “dream” is for the Jews from Iraq and the Arab world to be the bridge between their countries of origin. “I hope we can restore the co-existence of the better years.
“One day I want to take my grandchildren home to show them their roots.”
Remember Bagdad will be shown at the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley on December 3