THE PAEDIATRICIAN

A dramatised biography

 

The riveting story of one man's struggle to become the first children's doctor in Iraq and improve child healthcare

 

LOOK INSIDE 

To read the first few pages

 

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Maria Kassir ...

was the German-born daughter-in-law of the paediatrician. She can be contacted by email at:

maria@thepaediatrician.eu

 

Maria Kassir lived for four decades in Baghdad where she raised her three children. A keen observer and diarist, she witnessed many of the events described in the second half of The Paediatrician first-hand.

 

After the death of her husband and with the increasing danger for Christian Iraqis following the fall of Saddam Hussein, she and her children left the country. 

 

Maria Kassir now lives in Germany. Her books in German include: Im Schatten der Goldenen Moschee, Als der Kranich Flog and Grausames Feuerwerk. To avoid the attention of Iraq's censors, these books were written under the pseudonym Maria Laufenberg.

 

Table of Contents:

Go to LOOK INSIDE 

 

 

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Reviews on Amazon

 

It transports you to another time and place

by nadiabahrani

This is not just for those interested in the making of a doctor or the making of history, indeed it is for both and more. A true story about a time and place about which many of us know little, and about which not that much seems to have been written in this form of a biography. The depiction of life and hardship and determination amidst much adversity but also much supportive love from the subject's family makes this a riveting read and I could not put it down. The culture of the time and place and of this unusual family of Christians in a predominantly Muslim land is very interesting and I have learned a lot from this book.

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What the critics say

 

Maria Kassir's Im Schatten der goldenen Moschee (In the Shadow of the Golden Mosque) has been praised highly. Here are a few condensed reviews posted on Amazon by readers who bought the book:

 

A very moving story! I could not put this book down until I finished it at 2:30 in the morning.

... Maxine Branday

 

The author has succeeded in giving us a deep insight into the feelings, habits and traditions of the Iraqi people as well as the life and way of thinking of a large part of the population.

... Wilma Wirth

 

Impressive insight into the Arabic world in Iraq. I enjoyed this book very much.

... G Bogner

 

The best book I have ever read!

 ... A Reader 

 

I have seldom read such a perfect description of the way of life in another country. Yet the author does not criticise, but reports very objectively and always deliberately tries to gain the reader’s understanding of the people of that country.

... Bookworm Monika

 

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The Paediatrician

is published by

Thorn Island Publishing,

a boutique publishing company located in Dalkey, Co Dublin, Ireland

 

www.thornislandpublishing.com

“If there had been a doctor in Mosul, your baby brother would not have died.” These words from his heart-broken mother were the inspiration behind Dr Abdulla Kassir's life-long mission.

 

With these words from his grieving mother Abdulla’s dream ... to become the first doctor in his hometown Mosul in northern Iraq ... was born.

 

These words became the inspiration behind Dr Abdulla Kassir’s life long mission, a mission that lies at the core of The Paediatrician, an exciting and compelling true story written by a daughter-in-law who knew him intimately.

 

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To achieve his goals, he had to face numerous obstacles. In the early 20th century a Christian boy in an Arab Territory ruled by the Ottoman Empire had not only to submit to discriminatory laws and restrictions imposed on his religious minority, he also had to travel for weeks by caravan to a high school in Turkey and to a university in Beirut which meant years of separation from his beloved family.

 

But he persevered, though as a student the Turkish Police arrested him for spying for Russia and forced him into the Turkish army in the First World War, where he experienced the horror of the battle of Kars and the massacre of the Armenians.

 

When he finally returned home as a doctor, the British army had occupied his homeland and drawn a new map of the Arab World. But he concentrated on his profession, fighting with every means available to him not only against diseases, but also against widespread ignorance, superstition and prejudice.

 

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His heart went out to the suffering of children. At the age of 47 years he trained in London in paediatrics and returned with a new dream: to establish the first children’s hospital in Baghdad. When he finally retired, he won a seat in parliament where he resumed his mission by pushing for legislation for improved medical and social security for the people.

 

During his long life Dr Abdulla Kassir witnessed his country moving out of the Middle Ages into the Modern Era, from the occupation of the Ottoman Empire to the Kingdom of Iraq under British Mandate, then to the Republic of Iraq and finally to the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

 

The women in his life too took the leap into the Modern Era. For his mother reading and writing was a book closed with seven seals. His wife broke the seals open, and his daughters embraced its values in universities and the  professions.

 

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Written in an engaging narrative non-fiction style, this biography reads like a fast-paced novel. Maria Kassir spent four observant decades in Baghdad. She uses her deep insight into the changing feelings, traditions and habits of the people in Iraq to underpin her story as the country moved from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century. 

 

Indeed Maria Kassir is a skilled, multi-lingual writer with several books in her native German already published. Her command of English is the equal of most writers for whom it is their native language.

 

One of the things that make The Paediatrician such a great book is that the development of Abdulla the man and the physician is placed within the context of the development of Iraq. Major political events seem to mirror major changes in Abdulla's life.

 

Indeed the major transitions in the story of Iraq ... the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq's emergence as a Kingdom under a British mandate, the fall of the ruling family and the change to a republic ... coincided with major changes in Dr Kassir's life. He died as Saddam Hussein was consolidating his grip over the country.

 

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Maria Kassir had a great advantage when researching The Paediatrician. As a daughter-in-law she lived in his house in Baghdad and obtained his accounts of his life first-hand. She also lived through many of the events in the latter part of the book. She put her intimate knowledge to good use.

 

Throughout the book she uses vignettes of daily life in Iraq to give a rounded picture of Abdulla's life and to put it in context. For example, her description of life in the late 19th century in a big rambling mansion ... with its camel house, guest house and segregated family house ... in the Orthodox Christian quarter of Mosul is engrossing.

 

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Maria Kassir also shows how Abdulla's continuous questing after knowledge was developed when he was studying medicine in Beirut among a circle of intellectual friends who openly discussed anything and everything under the sun ... art and literature, politics, science and modern progress ... and which allowed women to argue on an equal footing with men. His change from innate conservatism to cautious liberalism is skilfully drawn by the writer.

 

Abdulla was a progressive in the full sense of the word. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the old Turkish laws restricting the activities of Christians were abolished. He decided that the communities in Mosul needed to be integrated and bought a house near the oldest mosque in the city. Ever the progressive, his house was the first in Mosul to have electricity.

 

During his long life ... he was 90 when he died ... Iraq's first paediatrician witnessed his country moving out of the Middle Ages and into the modern era. Abdulla commented at length on these developments and his daughter-in-law has skilfully incorporated them in the narrative.

 

This engaging story of a complex human being is extremely well-written, fast-paced and reads like a novel ... yet is a brilliant look at the man, his accomplishments and his times.

 

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Reviews on Amazon

 

A Story of Defeat, Survival and Starlit Nights over the Tigris River

by Lily H West

 

The challenge of "The Paediatrician" is not how to get hooked but rather, how to let go. The first sentence immediately pulls the reader into the story of the passionate paediatrician, Abdullah. The book's lead character is embedded in a big family of several generations. The family members join him on his journey to become the first paediatrician in Iraq, but they also live their own lives, which lead to other intriguing settings.

The reader witnesses the book's characters overcome defeat and disaster, both politically and personally, but also experience great success and lavish oriental feasts. Starlit nights over the Tigris River make the stories of One Thousand and One Nights almost become real.

But, "The Paediatrician" is also a book about women. There are some strong ladies in Abdullah's family. While they only play a subordinate role in the Iraqi society at the time, they use their influence through in-official networks that have been weaved from generation to generation.

Reading "The Paediatrician", you will not only learn a lot about the history and culture of Iraq, but you'll most certainly develop an emotional bond. And if you have an Iraqi background yourself, you will enjoy revisiting your country through the gripping narrative of the "Paediatrician".

 

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