Municipal authorities in the southern city of Basra have mounted a campaign to clean up the Jewish cemetery there.
The cemetery is seen as one of Basra’s ‘cultural landmarks’ and the authorities want to keep it clean and tidy, said Ahmad al-Yasseri who heads the cleaning-up campaign.
There are no Jews left in the city which used to house a sizeable Jewish community of tens of thousands before the creation of Israel in 1948.
They were the finest goldsmiths and the most adventurous traders of Basra, known as the Venice of the Middle East.
The lived in one of the city’s smartest quarters with spacious villas adorned with palm trees and oranges.
Yasseri said in the tumultuous post-Saddam period, 62 houses were built on the cemetery grounds illegally.
“This cemetery is one of the cultural landmarks of Basra and we are determined to remove the illegal dwellings,” he said.