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Gendered Migrations: Iraqi Jewish Women and the Quest for Emancipation
The migration Jews from Iraq to Israel, Europe and North America, is a complicated historical affair, whose racial, economic and social aspects have been studied at depth. This paper inquires the gendered perspectives of this migration. It suggests that the process of migration deeply shaped the experiences of Iraqi Jewish women in their families, as mothers, daughters, wives, and their employment, especially in gendered professions such as social workers and philanthropists. To do so, I follow the life narratives of three Iraqi Jewish women, and the transnational and local networks to whom they belonged and which they activated during their multiple migrations and immigrations. While these women share very little in common, key moments in global and Iraqi history influenced their lives as gendered migrants in similar ways. Renée Dangoor was born in Shanghai in 1925 to an affluent Baghdadi Jewish family, and moved back to Baghdad as a child. In 1947, she won the title of Miss Iraq, in a pageant held at the Iraqi Flying Club. With her husband, Naim Dangoor, she migrated from Iraq to England in 1959, where she engaged in public and philanthropic activities. Sa‘ida Mash‘al (b. 1929) was raised in ‘Amara and moved to Baghdad in 1941, where she eventually became an important activist in the illegal Iraqi Communist Party. Jailed in 1949, Sa‘ida emerged as a jail leader, teaching illiterate women how to read, and organizing strikes protesting the women’s jailing conditions. Sa‘ida was released in 1958 and completed her higher education, earning a Ph.D. She converted to Islam, adopting the name Su’ad, and married communist Zaki Khayri. Su‘ad moved to Moscow in 1963 and returned to Iraq only in 1967. In 1979, after being arrested and tortured, she left for Sweden, where she continued writing and publishing. Nuzhat Darwish Qassab was born in Baghdad in 1932. Her father died when she was ten months old and after the Farhud, the family moved to Basra. In 1951, the family immigrated to Israel. Nuzhat studied Political Science and Middle East Studies at Hebrew University, and worked in Israel's Arabic Radio Station, where she met her husband, Reuben Qassab, the station’s director. A longtime member of the Histadrut, she led groups of women in Palestinian villages and in transit camps and played a role in shaping Israel’s consumers rights. In 1974, she was elected to the Knesset.
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