Subj: Iraq: Mandaeans face genocide.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.
IRAQI'S MANDAEANS FACE GENOCIDE
- ALL OTHER RELIGIOUS MINORITIES AT RISK
Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
- (a) Killing members of the group;
- (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group." (Link 1)
The Society for Threatened Peoples (Gesellschaft fur bedrohte Volker) has published a report entitled "Mandaeans in Iraq: After centuries of persecution – Today their very survival is threatened" (March 2006). (Link 2)
This German-based organisation documents the same sorts of abuses that have been documented by the Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA) and used in previous WEA RLC postings on Iraq. Abuses include forced conversions, kidnappings, rapes, forced marriages, tortures and killings (often highly barbaric) of innocent Mandaean civilians including women and children.
Since the overthrow of the Hussein regime the situation for Mandaeans in Iraq has become untenable as violence against them has increased markedly. Because Mandaeans, are labeled "unclean" and not even afforded "protected" dhimmi status, they may be publicly persecuted or killed with impunity. In fact the killer may even have a sense of justification, as if he has performed a noble and principled act of cleansing. On top of this, Mandaeans are pacifists and therefore defenseless. They are generally well educated and highly skilled. Altogether this makes them choice, prime, easy targets for greedy criminals as well as for bigoted Islamists.
The Society for Threatened Peoples is also documenting the flight of Mandaean refugees. They estimate that around 1,000 Iraqi Mandaean families had fled to Syria or Jordan by January 2006. In September 2005, the BBC estimated that a mere 13,000 Mandaeans (about one third of the pre-war population) remained inside Iraq.
In May the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released its Annual Report for 2006. Pages 9 – 12 are devoted to the human rights situation in Iraq, and make it very clear that "The future of religious minorities hangs in the balance".
Here are some excerpts from that four-page segment entitled: "IRAQ: Human Rights in Jeopardy". (Link 3)
"Minority communities, including Christian Iraqis, are forced to fend for themselves in an atmosphere of impunity, and lack any tribal or militia structure to provide for their security. The result is that members of these communities continue to flee the country in the face of violence, in an exodus that may mean the end of the presence in Iraq of ancient Christian and other religious minority communities that have lived on those same lands for 2,000 years. The UN has reported on 'an explosion of Islamist extremist movements and militias which target, among others, members of religious minorities,' concluding that religious minorities 'have become the regular victims of discrimination, harassment, and at times persecution, with incidents ranging from intimidation and threats to the destruction of property, kidnapping and murder,' and that 'members of the Christian minority. . .appear to be particularly targeted.' As discussed below, this violence is also directed against women, including non-Muslim women, who are deemed as not complying with Islamic strictures, which are being imposed unlawfully.
"Sabean Mandaean organizations continue to report that extremist Islamic elements are targeting individual members of the Iraqi Sabean community, solely on the basis of their religious belief. In a number of instances, attackers reportedly attempted to forcibly convert their victims before murdering them, sometimes going so far as to leave the victims' valuables behind to underscore the religious motivation for their acts. Other violence directed against the Sabean community reportedly included kidnapping, rape, immolation, and the gouging of eyes.
"According to the Germany-based Society for Threatened Peoples, 17,000 of the 30,000 Mandaeans have already fled Iraq in the wake of this violence. According to sources cited by the UN, Iraqi religious leaders issued several fatwas during the past year which 'have provided Islamic fundamentalists with the religious justification for acts carried out against the Mandaeans, and have accentuated the level of fear among the Mandaean community'."
ULTIMATUM: CONVERT, LEAVE OR DIE.
Today, Iraqi Mandaeans are being given an ultimatum – to convert to Islam or leave Iraq. The only other option is death.
Here are translations of two letters received recently by Mandaeans in Iraq. The translations are taken from the Appendix of the report by the Society for Threatened Peoples.
Threatening letter addressed to Layth Shaker
[excerpt of translated letter]
In the name of God
To the citizen Layth Shaker, you are going astray and you have to come back to God and his prophet. This is a warning to you and your family, the fighter's brothers will be satisfied if you transfer from Al-Ramady with your family. You have time limit for three days only and after that you will be punished because the settlement is started and this is a last opportunity to you and you are under control by the Al-Jehadia group. . .
Threatening letter addressed to Mahmoud Shaker
[full text of translated letter]
In the name of Allah
'If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good).'
'O, ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination of Satan's handiwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.'
To the magus, the infidel, the Sabi the goldsmith Shaker M & his sons, we warn you and your sons that you must abandon the religion of the infidel and the atheist and to convert to Islam. Your sons must join the Al-Jehad group to fight against the occupiers and the army of the infidel. By the way your sons who ever is Mahmoud Shaker and his brother Moneer Shaker are an agent soldiers in the army of what called the national guard and you drink wine, you are dirty, cursed infidel and low. You have only two choices, either convert to Islam or to leave the country of Islam.
He who was warns is excused
The national Islamic resistance
Kataeeb Thwart Al-Eshreen
DESPERATE NEED FOR ASYLUM
On 23 June 06, the SMAA reported that in the previous week, ten Mandaeans had been mutilated and killed in Basra, and that all the other Mandaeans still living in Basra had received "warning" notices ordering them to leave Iraq or be likewise killed. The letters reported to the SMAA follow the same line as the "warning" notice to Mahmoud Shaker (above), and falsely accuse the Mandaeans of being drunkards, gamblers, idolaters, prostitutes and practitioners of black magic.
The Mandaeans of Basra have even been informed that they no longer have the option of converting to Islam. They are fleeing for their lives, and those who cannot flee are living in terror of their lives. All the Mandaean clergy have fled.
But where will Iraq's Mandaeans find refuge?
When Iraq's Jewish population was faced with the same choice - leave or die - the newly created state of Israel came to the rescue. Iraqi Jews accounted for one third of Baghdad's population at the time of World War One and most were highly educated, skilled professionals. Persecution of Jews (and Christians) escalated after the British mandate ended in 1932. The Christian Assyrians suffered a catastrophic massacre in 1933. Then in October 1939, the arrival in Iraq of the pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem (a personal ally to Hitler) heralded the beginning of the end of a 2,500 year history of Jews in Iraq. After years of inciting anti-Semitic violence all over Palestine and the Middle East, Haj Amin El Husseini incited anti-Jewish pogroms and massacres in Iraq with a view to genocide. There were still up to 150,000 Jews in Iraq in July 1948 when "Zionism" was made a criminal (in some cases capital) offense, with only two Muslims required to denounce one Jew. By 1951 more than 100,000 Iraqi Jews had been evacuated empty-handed, rescued by Israel's Operation Ezra & Nehemiah to be absorbed in Israel as refugees. A remnant of 34 mostly elderly Iraqi Jews were found in Iraq in 2004. (Link 4)
There is no rescue in sight for Iraqi's immediately threatened Mandaeans. Due to the enormous numbers of refugees flooding into Syria and Jordan, Syrian and Jordanian tolerance is beginning to run out. Also, many Mandaean asylum seekers are not finding refuge in the West as political forces, motivated by trade deals as well as political and diplomatic considerations, are increasingly interfering with refugee tribunal decisions.
Below are two resources from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to further assist with asylum claims of Iraqi Mandaeans, Christians and other religious minorities.
Background Information on the Situation of Non-Muslim Religious Minorities in Iraq. (October 2005)
Guidelines Relating to the Eligibility of Iraqi Asylum-Seekers. (October 2005)
1) Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/p_genoci.htm
2) The Society for Threatened Peoples (Gesellschaft fur bedrohte Volker) http://www.gfbv.de "Mandaeans in Iraq: After centuries of persecution – Today their very survival is threatened." March 2006. (direct link to English version: http://www.gfbv.de/inhaltsDok.php?id=694 )
3) United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released its Annual Report for 2006. http://www.uscirf.gov/
4) Iraq's Jews
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3107219.stm ALSO http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/iraqijews.html