Episode 41: Farouk al-Rawi: Reflections: Transcript

0:14  JT

Welcome to the Thin End of the Wedge, the podcast where experts from around the world share new and interesting stories about life in the ancient Middle East. My name is Jon. Each episode I talk to friends and colleagues, and get them to explain their work in a way we can all understand.

0:32  JT

This episode we try something new. I interview a veteran scholar, and ask them to share their memories. I invite them to reflect on their career. How did they enter the field? What have been their experiences and achievements? Who influenced them? What do they think about how things are now, and what the future may hold? 

0:56  JT

Our guest is one of the dominant figures of Iraqi scholarship on the ancient Middle East. Over the many decades of his career, he has worked at some of the major sites, and been present at some of the most memorable events. He has published widely, and has taught many students. He is someone held in great esteem. I have seen for myself how keen visiting Iraqi colleagues have been to go and pay their respects to him. 

1:25  JT

In these interviews we hear individual perspectives. Each guest will have different experiences, and different thoughts. This episode our guest is someone who has led a remarkable life, during a time of dramatic changes in Iraq. His memories reveal details of daily life during the mid-20th century. They let us follow one man’s journey, as he navigates the challenges of political and social change. We see complex academic networks, and the impact of individuals. We meet the person behind the famous name.

2:08  JT

For this interview, I sent in advance a list of questions and topics that I thought would be interesting to discuss. When we came to speak, our guest talked with passion, from the heart. Rather than interrupt, I let him tell his story in his own way. He was very generous with his time, so this episode is little longer than previous ones. What follows is an edited version of our conversation. I have added some brief introductions throughout. 

2:40  JT

So get yourself a cup of tea, make yourself comfortable, and let’s meet today’s guest.

2:55  JT

Hello, and welcome to Thin End of the Wedge. Thank you for joining us.

2:59  FA-R

Hello, Jon. I would like to thank you for this meeting. And we hope that our younger generations would benefit from such meetings.

3:14  JT

Could you introduce yourself please? What’s your name? And how would you describe yourself?

3:21  FA-R

My name is Farouk Nasir Hammadi. And if you want a series of names, we can give. I was actually prepared to give you a photograph of our ancestors in a kind of a tree, which is the tradition of keeping the chronological order of ourselves.

3:50  FA-R

I am a person who grew in an orchard alongside the Euphrates in a little town called Rawa. You might ask, “what is Rawa?” Some people of the Rawi origin take that as Al Rawa. It comes to Arabic as al-Rawi. So the determinative, actually, it is “al”, so al-rawi from Rawa. Rawa, as I said, alongside the Euphrates. It’s like a peninsula into the Euphrates. It is opposite ‘Ana from one side and Mashhad from the other, which they called in Arabic maqam ‘Ali. This is the origin. You might ask me how Rawa became as the name. I would tell you that during my readings of cuneiform, that there were tribes in the area, you know, the Suhu, which we called as-suh. The Suh is the lowland adjacent to the Euphrates from each side. So they call it in Akkadian Suhu. But in Arabic, you can translated as-suh. One of the tablets, which was discovered in the area in Sur Jar’a was published by Antoine Cavigneaux, and the late Bahija Khalil Ismail. And that tablet, which I contributed a little bit by giving them one of the little stones which was inscribed from the same period. So amongst that tablet, there was a tribe called Rua. And was it the original of the people of Rawa?

6:33  JT

Farouk starts by explaining his family background. It contains fascinating details of the social history of Iraq in the mid-20th century, and observations on similarities with what we know from ancient Iraq.

6:49  FA-R

We know that Rawa contains many tribal origins, some of which connected to the Bedouin. I got relatives, which are still living despite all the trouble and the wars which happened, in tents, just over Rawa in the Jazirah. My grandfather was the sheikh of the tribe, which I belong to, which is al-Buthayt. His name is Hammadi Salih. We are divided to small houses. We called ourselves bayt nu’aman. Nu’aman is like the Jewish name Newman. So this is my origin. My grandfather was a guide in the desert. And alongside the Euphrates up to near Nisibin, up the Khabur. And my auntie actually married to somebody in Qamishli in our days. By the way, the diminutive name of my grandfather is Hammade and I believe that because he is the only one who was the guide in the 20s and before that, whether he is the one who was mentioned by Gertrude Bell. In Amurath to Amurath, there is a picture representing ahal Rawa, i.e., al-Rawi people. They were standing under our orchard in Rawa.

8:57  FA-R

I am from a humble family. We have an orchard. During the summer, we live on that orchard. We have two rooms and the orchard, which contains many fruits and vegetables. We lived out of that. During my early days, we lived without buying and selling. We lived by barter. We bartered our fruits to the others who hasn’t got it and they will give us in return another fruit. The main the fruits of area was figs, mulberry, of course dates, pomegranates. Pomegranates, by the way, is the life of the people, because they used it as a fruit; they used the shooting as a binders for the Na’ur. Na’ur is when the wheel go round, it make the sound. We used the shoot as binders, we bound the actual pieces of the wheel. And we bound the shooting jars attached to the wheel, which resembles the Old Babylonian shooting jars, which was discovered from Mari to Babylon.

10:39  FA-R

Our water was filtrated by a very large jar. We call it “hib”. And under it, there was a small pottery jar to collect that filtrated water. We drink from that water. Our food is simple food, simple Iraqi food. We mainly eat meat once a week, if we can afford it. But sometimes we have feasts. We have feasts for the dead people during what we call Eid al-Adha. People or houses, they used to sacrifice on that four days, mainly either a camel or a cow. And it should be pure, and not lie into one leg or another. So this is one of our main festivals in the year. At the beginning, which is around these days, autumn time, the end of autumn, and the beginning of the new year, we and this is something mentioned in cuneiform from Ur the Third Dynasty. We sacrifice animals, mainly sheep and goats after we fatten them. We fatten them for four months, then we sacrifice them and keep the meat.

12:35  FA-R

Until now I can taste the way in which we used the meat. We preserve it in pouch–leather, in hide. They put it in, they emptied it from the air, put some … a lot really, of salt and spices, on that particular way of preserving meats. We used to preserve even vegetables. We used to hang them in necklaces, the aubergine, the ocra or “bamia” we call it and the tomatoes. We used to dry it on the sun, such vegetables, and make them into ropes. This is from where possibly the measurement “aplu”, the measurement of rope, came to the cuneiform tablets. And this is from where possibly we measure with ropes. And by the way, we measure our orchard and the fields, we measure them by qanu, by the reed, which is a certain measurement. It could be between 25 and 30 metres. They’re usually from one of the branches of the mulberry trees or something like that. When they want to measure a field or an orchard, they will measure it by the standard kept with a sheikh or his family. So the used to measure these fields and orchards like what we have in Sumerian and the Akkadian, the nindan, the reed. This is my connection to the study of ancient history and archaeology.

15:04  JT

Next Farouk tells us how he became interested in ancient Iraq. He explains his education and his early university career.

15:15  FA-R

I have one of my uncle’s, the eldest brother of my mother. He used to go to areas in the desert and alongside the Euphrates. He knew of some people discovered at that time, some coins, some artefacts, and took it to Baghdad from an area called Hubayd. And they even dimunised his name as Hubaydi, i.e., related to that particular Roman city, as we discovered later in the 70s. He knew of archaeology and tell us stories about these archaeological items, such as numismatics, or incantation bowls or statues. They will say that the French or the British, they found a statue and remove it and took it away between ‘Ana and Rawa in the middle of the Euphrates. So this is one branch of my knowledge of archaeology.

16:51  FA-R

And the other which I followed always, another uncle, is the brother of my mother, his name is Sanad Mohammed Abdulrazzaq. And Sanad Mohamed Abdulrazzaq, his father was actually a tribal leader. And by the way, they give him the diminutive name as Abu li’umaysh. Al-umaysh means the one who owned a she-camel with a very tall or large eyelashes. So they called her al-umaysh. And, by the way, Rawa did not became under British rule until 1934. And he was the one who negotiate with the British not to bombard Rawa and they will give up and by having a self-government in Rawa itself.

18:11  FA-R

So you can see this is the route. This is how they planted the seed into us. In mathematics, they have many, many riddles. They give you riddles, you have to solve. Like, you have 100 dinar and 100 women. You have to enter them into the bath. And one woman equals a dinar. And the other, older than her, equals something like 40 fills, which is pennies. And then the oldest, each 100 of them equals one fils. So how will you enter 100 women into a bath with 100 dinars? My uncle was a politician at the same time. They call him Ansar al-Salam, the people who support peace. He was the leader until actually ’63. So that is the political and social life that I grew up with.

19:39  JT

Now Farouk moves on to life after graduation. We hear about his excavation experience and his postgraduate studies.

19:48  FA-R

Well, myself, I was active with the student society, which is affiliated to a particular party in Iraq, like a communist party. I was active on that. I have been almost deported from Rawa–with many others–because of that activities. I went to Fallujah, which is only where I have relatives and my father had a shop. Then with the development of the Baathists and nationalists on the area, we couldn’t live anymore in Fallujah. We have to go to Baghdad. So I studied in all these cities. Then I went to Baghdad and from Baghdad my uncle was a health officer in they call it al-Dujail. You heard about al-Dujail and where Saddam was executed because of what he did in al-Dujail. There were orchards. There is a small canal in the area. And we have been moved from there further to the north into Balad.

21:20  FA-R

The area … the whole area is very rich in archaeological sites. Opposite Balad there is what they called ath-thalu’iyah. Ath-thalu’iyah, it’s one of the areas where somebody found the stone of Haya … or we translated–the late Jeremy [Black] and myself, but with hesitation, it is Haza, an Old Babylonian town. It’s not very far from Upis. So after that, I have been transferred with my uncle into Beiji and I did my first baccalaureate, second baccalaureate there. After a while, I have to go to Rawa. And we lived out of my father’s shop in Fallujah after that. And I finished actually my high baccalaureate in Fallujah. Then I have been accepted into three colleges, like the law college and Arabic studies, and archaeology and other departments like history, geography, etc. I chose the archaeology department, and this is how I started my involvement.

23:09  FA-R

We used … with some friends like Zuhair Rajab Abdullah Burhan Shaqir, who worked many times as representatives of the School of Archaeology in Iraq. And they learned many techniques in archaeology, and they learned many ideas from Hrouda, the Germans, from the Italians, and from the Japanese Fuji. I used to leave the college and go to a site called Hiyut Rabu’ah. Not very far from Harmal. Whereby the best excavator of Iraq, the late Hazim an-Najafi was working. So I trained by him, and who was trained before by Seton Lloyd, Fuad Safar, Muhammad Ali Mustafa and others. So, this is my archaeological background. So I was working at Hiyut Rabu’ah, at Harmal itself. I go to visit. I participate. And this is the main thing. In Mesopotamia, you have to gain the knowledge of identifying libn from the earth. You have to distinguish them by the mortar, because it’s a different colour and a different texture. So, you hold up the axe, which will enable you in a 45 degrees–this is what I learned from Fuad Safar: how to distinguish between libn and earth.

25:25  FA-R

As for languages, I was studying in the Department of Archaeology. And I have been taught by many scholars. The end of the career in Iraq of Matoush, who taught me the Akkadian and parts of the Sumerian. Then comes Reimschneider, a German scholar. Reimschneider taught me Sumerian and a little bit of German. And this opened my mind. I have a nice teacher in college, his name was Butler. And he used to teach us English. And there was another teacher which passed through my life, which is Madame Mackie, you know Mackie in Kufa gallery. His wife also taught me–she’s English, and she taught us English. I have been also taught by Mahmud al-Amin. He studied in German. And I still have a small book, which he copied most of the texts of Nimrud. At that time, he was the directorate official for Nimrud. And he also taught me history. And I have been taught also by the late Fuad Safar, who really put me into research. I used to write to him some essays such as Sennacherib aqueducts, and his work on irrigating northern Mesopotamia and so on.

27:38  JT

At this point, Farouk encounters someone who would be a key influence on his career, Harry Saggs. I also owe Saggs a debt. It wasn’t until I came across a copy of his The Might that was Assyria that it really sank in that there were all these interesting cultures in ancient Iraq. But I never even met him. Farouk knew him much more closely.

28:05  FA-R

I was always during my study the top student. And after I graduated, they nominated me to be demonstrator under the lecturers. So I went to Mosul University. This is during ’60s. So it’s a long time ago. And this is where I met Saggs. There was in there who wanted me to be part of the University. His name was professor Mahmoud al-Jalili. He was the president of the university. And he was the best scholar. Mahmoud al-Jalili, he [was] checked by the Baathists when they came to power, and he was living at that time in Baghdad. He went to Baghdad, and he worked at the highest institution, which is the Majma al-Ilmi al-Iraqi, which is the scientific assembly of academics, like the British academics, and he stayed all his life as a heart surgeon. He used to come every year to Britain and he never missed to either invite me or come to see me before he goes back to Iraq. “Why?”, you might ask. I will tell you I used, when I find a brick, a fragment of a tablet or an inscription, I used to read it to him directly. When I found it and identify to him, what is that archaeological object and who wrote it, like Sennacherib, and so on.

30:28  FA-R

When he saw my ability on cuneiform, he invited Saggs, Professor Henry William Frederick Saggs, who was part of my family or extended family. From the time I know him until like we say in cuneiform ibakkishu iqabbar. So I was mourning him, crying when he died, and when he have his rest in Suffolk. Saggs, I knew him from at that time when I was working at Tarbisu with the late Dr. Amir Suleiman. I was working the main excavator. We have been visited by Saggs, by the late David Oates, and Nicholas Postgate and the others. At Tarbisu where I worked in the temple of Nergal, from the time of Sennacherib and on the Palace of bringing up the princes, the future kings and princes of Assyria. We discovered a beautiful palace for Ashurbanipal. And it could be also from the time of Sargon and from the time of Sennacherib. Actually, we discovered also what we called bit rimki, whereby we found a water canal leading to a building fortified at the foundations with large bricks and built by bitumen. And one of the courts had a canal coming down into a big courtyard with the fountain. We have a fountain, a brick with many holes, whereby the canal put its water in, and the water will come up into the room, which is fortified with about 10 layers of bricks built by bitumen. This is my main experience.

33:20  FA-R

By the way, at that time, we have been visited from the President of Iraq, Abdul Rahman Arif too. And we put a commemorative stone by his name on the Adad Gate, still in there intact. And by Gulbenkian, who has a small share on the IPC–Iraqi petroleum–because he was the discoverer of the oil in Kirkuk, and other areas. So he gave me a scholarship whereby he will give me a salary and give my family my actual salary to live. But the Baathists took that from me and gave it to one of the houses which they knew. And he came to England and failed to pass his exams. And they gave it to another and he failed. And then they gave me a university scholarship by Jalili himself, just before he went out of the university, and I have to resign from the university.

34:51  FA-R

I come to Britain without salary, to my family. I came to Britain by the recommendation of the late Harry Saggs, and he adopted me, at that time. Really, adopted me like a son to him. Yeah, he hasn’t got sons. He got five daughters, but no sons. So, I used to live in the university hall until I went back. This is my best life, to be honest. My real life in the university. I was very active in the university. From football machines to a part of the team in basketball, and to the Iraqi team in football, etcetera. I was the head of the Arab Student Society. At the same time, I was the head of the student society, they call it Gusir, which is General Union of [Students of the] Iraqi Republic. I was also part of the Gilbert and Sullivan choir {LAUGHS} So you can see I was very active enjoying my life. But at the same time, I was studying. I used to study all the night sometimes. Sometimes I forgot myself. I sleep until about 10 o’clock, then possibly you didn’t hear Saggs when he knocked the door on my room. He comes and knocks the door. “Are you ill?” I said, “no”. “Do you eat?” You know, these things makes you more attached to them. That’s Saggs. “Get up. Get up now”. I said to him, “I’m sorry, I was reading”. I was recording at that time all the texts of Nuzi on tapes. I was reading the texts. He used to give us six texts for a month. I gave him 200 texts at that time. So you can see I was very active and very concentrating.

37:47  FA-R

Lambert taught us actually. He wanted me to follow him and these literary texts. The late Lambert, I loved him until he died. Before he died, he came to the Museum. And I kissed him, because I can feel his illness at that time. Anyway, this is part of my life in Britain. And I had an MA first. My study of the MA at Cardiff was Semitic languages, and Religious Studies. Saggs taught us, to be more precise. He taught me Latin, Greek, Ugaritic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and Akkadian and Sumerian. He taught me very advanced in Sumerian. Because he taught us the large cones of Gudea.

39:04  FA-R

You know, Greek, I was on the top of the class at that time. Greek and Latin. He didn’t teach me Greek and Latin. There was a scholar called Ap Roberts. There is one who taught me Aramaic, especially Daniel and other parts of Aramaic, which I presented him actually with a very nice Aramaic letter I discovered at Adad gate. And I copied that and gave it to him. His name is Mr. Rawlins. I have been taught some biblical Hebrew. Saggs taught me about the ones where Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar was mentioned in the Bible. There was a priest. He was mainly in India and in the Middle East. His name is Ryder. He taught me Syriac and the Hebrew psalms. {RECITES HEBREW} I still remember these phrases. His name was Ryder. And he was brilliant in Syriac grammar. Actually he presented me with his library before he died.

40:37  FA-R

And one of the nice things also during my study in Syriac, the one which I told you, there were I think about 12 students, and mostly Jewish students from America, from Britain–Cooper and others, they all studied with Saggs for a while. {LAUGHS} He used to ask a question about a word. He always directed his speech to me. And he will say, “what is this, Farouk?” And I will answer him in comparison with Arabic. But sometimes I have a mistake. And he doesn’t say to me, “what? Did you say that, Farouk? Did you say–let us say–nasaru?”  I say “yes”, I don’t say “no”. So the students go mad about that.

41:42  FA-R

My PhD is about new texts from Tell al-Fahhar. Tell al-Fahhar is Guruhani. And Nuzi texts, this is my speciality: studies in the commercial life of an administrative area of eastern Assyria in the 15th century BC, based on published and unpublished cuneiform texts.

42:21  FA-R

At that time, the computer was a whole building in the University of Cardiff. I entered in punching cards. Saggs told me, because he saw my ability and so on, “go and found all cities in Nuzi texts. Nuzi texts about something around 15,000 texts. I made by punching cards. I learned from Iraqi engineers how to computerise on that building. After about six months, I finished the project and took it to him. He said to me, “Farouk, you finish this, but you go now and find all the animals at Nuzi”. So I was mad. I said to him, “look, I want to go back”. Because I was so tired. I said to him, “I want to go back, I want to go home”. He said, “you are very good” and so on. “I can give you your degree, but you won’t learn as much”. Anyway, he persuaded me and I stayed.

43:48  FA-R

One of the people which I didn’t mention who has an impact on my life, he was studying with me. Of course, I saved him in Iraq from trouble. His name was Martin Sillman. He was studying with Saggs on burials, and cult of death. And he was very kind the friend, he’s a religious friend, and he always respected me for what I did. When I finished my degree, I made them a huge feast with lamb stuffed with rice, raisins, almonds, etc. {LAUGHS} I invited all of them and they were there. All. Saggs, Rawlins, Ap Roberts. These are the people who taught me. And I left his book to John Healy. When he just graduated, he was studying then; he graduated too in Cardiff. And he studied with Saggs for a while. And he was most kind and like his family and my family. By the way, my external examiner was Millard of Liverpool. I came back to England at that time, and I met Max Mallowan, via the School of Archaeology. Saggs took me and introduced me to him. This was the great moment of my life at that time. You put these people in front of you, David Oates, Max Mallowan, Mellaart, and Millard,, and Lambert, and Saggs. You know, you put them on your mind when you excavate.

46:10  JT

Eventually, the time came for Farouk to return to Iraq.

46:16  FA-R

I know my wife since ’72/’73, and married in ’77. And then depart to Iraq. I was in Mosul, and they knew of my activity in Cardiff. In Mosul, one of my students is Professor Dr. Ali Yassin. I trained him in excavation at Tarbisu. I trained many students at Tarbisu. We used to have about 40 students every year in archaeology. I had my late brother, he was a high ranking officer. And he was the organiser of Saddam Hussein’s bodyguards. He studied in Russia, I mean, the Soviet Union at that time, Russia, and he studied also in Cuba, and he served in India. So he’s like a bodyguard for me. {LAUGHS} By his kindness and by the trouble I had from some people in Mosul, he moved me to Baghdad. And since then, I was lecturer, then assistant professor, then professor and head of department at Baghdad.

48:00  FA-R

Of course, I never forgot my friends in the British School of Archaeology. From Nicholas Postgate, Michael Roaf, their families, and the late Jeremy, which used to visit us every Eid–Eid is the feast–and bring presents to the children. He helped us to get a house from the council in Great Dunmow. This is after we returned to Britain. I always say Great Britain. And once in Wales, when I was in Wales, there is a newspaper called The Echo. They told, “why do you say ‘Great Britain’ always?” I said, “either the United Kingdom or Great Britain”. But I said “great” because of the greatness of the labour movement at that time. {LAUGHS} I … I met many, many politicians in my life in Wales. There was one from Bridgend who helped to form the Communist Party in Iraq. And I met the head of Bert Pearce and others in Cardiff itself, the leadership. And because of my position as the head of a student society of the Arabs and of the Iraqis.

49:53  FA-R

In Baghdad, I used to take the students to Sippar and work on the site. Very special site. We worked on a special area for the students, which extended from Sasanian, Parthian, to New Babylonian, Kassite, to Old Babylonian, to Ur Three, and to Akkadian and beyond. We have a trench, and on the trench, it occurred a kind of earthquake. If you have layers like these. And then one of the layers during the Akkadian period, the earth was trembled, and you still can see the crack on the section. After that, I have to study these things. I did the study actually, for the Iraqi nuclear. They want to choose a nuclear site. So I did a study for them: where the earthquakes occurred during the ancient history, Islamic history. There is a beautiful text of course from Nuzi. It is, well, my main subject, which is Nuzi.

51:30  JT

During his time in Baghdad, Farouk played a key role in one of the most significant moments for archaeology in Iraq. University of Baghdad excavations at Sippar in the 1980s found a library of the Ebabbar temple with cuneiform tablets still arranged on the shelves.

51:50  FA-R

I was actually the head of the expedition at that time. They were excavating merely by the suggestion of the late Taha Baqir. They excavated in private houses away from the temple. When I become the head of the expedition in 1979, because Walid gave up the expedition, at that time, I went to the temple and opened the excavation. I saw a huge mound of debris over the library itself. By reading about Rassam, about Budge, about others who excavated there, you have an idea. And by having seen the map of Rassam, I put it on my mind. I went to the area, and opened excavation there. After I myself drove the shovel to remove the debris. And this is the beginning of the discovery.

53:16  FA-R

But I went from the back entrance or the northern entrance of the Ebabbar, and entered into the temple of Ayya, his wife, beside him. Not very far from the ziggurat. By entering that area, over the actual library, we discovered the text which I published in Iraq with Wayne Horowitz, an astrolabe. There is a courtyard in front of the library. It seems that Rassam or the other excavators carried out most of the contents of the courtyard. But they didn’t enter the library because of the heap of earth over it. So when we discovered that, we went into that–Zuhair Rajab the excavator, and others–we went into the temple of Ayya. I first concentrated on the temenos of the temple and tried to go through because it wasn’t excavated by Rassam and the others–Scheil, Rassam and the others.

54:52  FA-R

The year after, i.e., ’79, we went into the library because of our work. Because we found a lexical text at the door. We have also found one of the texts which I published in Iraq, a Shu-ilim text. It’s a small text of Shu-ilim. A stamp, actually, from the Akkadian period. So we entered the library, emptied it, and see with the meticulous works of Zuhair Rajab and an excavator from Sherqat, Ilhan Edha, we entered the library. And we discovered the pigeon holes, one after the other. Well, I started by cleaning the texts myself. And by gluing together the actual texts. Via that, I always read what we have. We went through it bit by bit, and it was around the whole room, these pigeon holes. Some of them were empty. Some were filled with cylinders of Nabonidus and others.

56:37  FA-R

And when I cleaned the texts, glued them, and varnished them, preserved them in some way or another, until we will bake them in the [Iraq] Museum. But it never happened apart from the last season, where we picked up some of the texts baked by the Museum with the help of an American, MacGuire Gibson, brought to the Museum. After a while, the president of the university, An-na’ami his name, asked me to give a lecture about these texts. I started my lecture with the contents of the texts; that there were literary texts, apart from a few administrative texts. About five or six administrative texts. The library as a whole, where the texts amount to about 450 texts. Up to 800 with the fragments and so on. So, when I examined especially some colophons, I discovered that the texts extended from Sumerian, Akkadian, until New Babylonian periods. I then told them about the use of the library. I found that the library was used from the time of Adad-apla-iddina to the time of Kambisiamush, Cambyses.

58:48  JT

By the 1990s, the situation in Baghdad had become very difficult.

58:55  FA-R

And I stayed until ’92. I was the head of department. They used to bring me every week and take me to a military official in the college. And he started to question me from the morning till the evening. We can remove you and put you in an office, in electricity or … I said to him, “look, if I have any faults or doing against any of your party, then you can judge me. But if you move me to electricity department or to another department, I will sit behind a table and work sincerely better than you and your father!” This is our way in Arabic. So, after ’92, we couldn’t live. You know, you go for an egg for the children. And you can’t really get it unless via them. So this is what happened. And this is why I left from Iraq. Nothing more, nothing less.

1:00:32  JT

Farouk remained very strongly connected with Iraqi assyriology. In more recent years, he’s been working for the museum in Suleimaniyah, cataloguing the collection there.

1:00:44  FA-R

Yeah, well, in Sulaimaniyah I have been invited 2007/08 and beyond. I went there, and they have a collection. I started working systematically from the morning, till the early morning of the night. From dusk to dawn. {LAUGHS} I started like a database for them. I was going to write it in English, so the wider people can benefit from that. But at the end, I did it in Arabic. So I went to through something like 8000 texts, and 1000 or so of bricks, and about more than 1000 of cones from Sumerian until Old Babylonian and others. So I started, like I started at Sippar, as I told you, by examining the texts, and try to read any text and identify it. We have a horde of Sumerian literary texts, extending from the story of the Hoe to Lugalbanda and the Mountain to the Hymn of Kesh and the hymn for the Entering of Enlil to the Ekur, to Inanna and Ebih. And these are the main corpus of Sumerian literary texts.

1:02:50  FA-R

I was under the support of the First Lady at that time, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, the wife of the late Talabani. And she gave me what I need. It’s just food and tickets. I catalogued the first 500 for the UNESCO when they wanted to build a room. I taught workers of the Museum, but you know, they have to go to excavations, because the foreign expeditions give them money. They leave you at the middle of their learning. Now, in Suleimaniyah, they opened a department. We have a collection of Akkadian texts. Some of them they were muddled and tried to form them modernly to make them full texts. These are a problem which we can’t solve. We haven’t got a kiln.

1:04:04  FA-R

I myself identified many archives. An archive for a certain Beli-ili. Beli-ili was marked by the fact that every text was threaded to a line. So each one of them have a hole at the left-hand side. Beli-ili was specialised in sacrificial animals. There are many groups of texts which you can identify from many places, from Isin, to Ur, to Larsa. They are illicit texts. We bought them and put them in the museum in order to safeguard them rather than going via military personnels and so on into the European and American markets. Unfortunately, from about six years ago, though they opened the department. And I said to them, “these are texts you should keep for your students”. In Baghdad, they won’t give them, and they won’t go to Baghdad to see what is in the Iraqi Museum. And they’ve got at least about at least 15 students in MA and 40 students in first studies and BA. What they are going to do these numbers? That’s the situation all over Iraq. This is why the education is going down.

1:06:03  FA-R

The universities are now controlled by militias, to be more clear, not by scholars who want to rise the standard of education. That’s really painful to me and those like me to see that. Lecturers cannot eat sometimes. I mean, limited, very limited. Their wages actually doesn’t support a family.

1:06:36  JT

The last few decades have been an incredibly difficult period for Iraqis generally. Thinking of Iraqi archaeology specifically, it has faced all sorts of huge challenges, and still does. But there are glimmers of hope. There are plenty of talented and energetic experts. There is some international support, too. I asked Farouk for his thoughts about the future. Is he optimistic?

1:07:02  FA-R

The archaeological study and history in Iraq is governed by us as a whole. We cannot drink oil. Neither eat it. Neither even work with it. But these people in all over Iraq, from India, to China, to Japan, to Korea, who are benefiting from the companies in Iraq, we should as a scholars milk them. We should get something out of the benefits which they are having from petroleum companies. We should have that in order to make them participate in the rising of the standards of studies, of education.

1:08:00  FA-R

In Iraq in the ’70s there were no illiterate people. The United Nations said; it’s not me. The UNESCO and the United Nations said that Iraq is empty from illiterates. Now, there is a high percentage of the people who do not know how to read and write. And now by the influence of the capitalist world in Iraq, they increase that amount of illiteracy. They didn’t build schools. They give money to the contractors who build on air rather than real building of schools. They give money to these politicians who filled their pockets rather than spending a time … little time … in colleges and schools, in educational centres.

1:09:10  FA-R

Or look forward for building Iraq through agriculture, through manufacturing. You know, now there is about the same amount of need of food, which we used to produce. We used to produce rice and export it to England. We used to export cotton, we used to export wool to England. Now we are buying all our needs, from Turkey, from Iran and other places. So this is where when all the sectors of society will be developed. I mean if Iraq is stable and the militias go away, leave us in peace, people of Iraq will certainly have social justice, develop their archaeological … you know, the archaeology is not new in Iraq by the way. Since Rassam’s time there were a movement of archaeologists in Iraq since Layard, Porter, Scheil, and others there were Iraqi workers who worked in archaeology. We could develop these skills. We used to go to dig on the Gulf, in Abu Dhabi, in the Emirates as a whole. In Saudi Arabia, we send them teachers and lecturers to educate them.

1:11:18  FA-R

We used to manufacture. You know, even the dibis, we import it from Iran. You know what’s dibis? Dishpu in Akkadian. It is actually the date syrup. We are now import it from Iran. Dates. We are now import from Iran. The fruits, we are importing it from Turkey. This is the way to which I think the future must look for. Firstly, freeze. On many ways we can freeze these militias, whatever they are. In the 70s, Iraq was prosper[ous], not now. But we can do it. If we put hand on heart, thinking about the country. If we can rule these oil companies to give a fraction of their benefits. A fraction of that will do what we are looking for. So we look forward for social justice. And we look forward for freedom also. We look forward to Europe, America, Japan, China, India, etc, Malaysia to try put their impressions on the country, rather than just take from the country.

1:13:01  FA-R

And by training, really training. Britain, America spent millions on these projects, but we have to put our impressions on the people rather than just benefiting those trainees. This is what we need in order to develop Iraq, in order to rebuild the state. The state is not rebuilt. The way forward by building like we do in archaeology, a brick by brick to reconstruct a building. So we must have examples in front of us to work. In Mosul, the UNESCO and the Sorbonne, they said that they are going to work the al-Nuri mosque, the minaret, but they invited the Egyptians to do the reconstruction. You know, there are Iraqis who drew that minaret, brick by brick, from the bottom to the top. They are scholars who did that. This is what is going on and this is how you can look at the future. I mean, there are hopes. When the new prime minister came, we hope that he will eliminate these militias. We want him to make just not to spend billions on politicians and religious personnels and so on, but spend it on the people. Spend it on the country, not abroad. There are many examples that we can put for the people in order to really look forward, walking towards a light at the end of the tunnel. In the future. This is looking for the future.{LAUGHS}

1:15:18  JT

Thank you very much Farouk. I really appreciate your time.

1:15:22  FA-R

Thank you, Jon. You’re welcome any time.

1:15:26  JT

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1:16:32  JT

I really appreciate your support. It makes a big difference. Every penny received has contributed towards translations. Thanks of course to the lovely people who have worked on the translations on a voluntary basis or for well below the market rate. For Arabic, thanks in particular to Zainab Mizyidawi, as well as Lina Meerchyad and May Al-Aseel. For Turkish, thank you to Pinar Durgun and Nesrin Akan. TEW is still young, but I want to reach a sustainable level, where translators are given proper compensation for their hard work.

1:17:12  JT

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