Showing posts with label Mandaeans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mandaeans. Show all posts

Friday, June 30, 2006

Iraq: Mandaeans face genocide.

Date: Friday 30 June 2006
Subj: Iraq: Mandaeans face genocide.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.



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)
Islamic elements in Iraq are working towards the total destruction of the Mandaean community. Iraq's Mandaeans are facing genocide.

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'."


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
Warning Warning
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
Information Office.


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)

Elizabeth Kendal


1) Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

2) The Society for Threatened Peoples (Gesellschaft fur bedrohte Volker) "Mandaeans in Iraq: After centuries of persecution – Today their very survival is threatened." March 2006. (direct link to English version: )

3) United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released its Annual Report for 2006.

4) Iraq's Jews ALSO

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Iraq: Seeking freedom and security.

Date: Tuesday 1 February 2005
Subj: Iraq: Seeking freedom and security.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


Roula Khalaf, writing for the Financial Times, correctly points out now that Iraq's "first pluralist elections in 50 years" are over, "the more decisive battle for the future of Iraq is just beginning."

"The primary responsibility of the 275-member national assembly chosen yesterday (30 Jan) - apart from picking the next government - is to draft Iraq's permanent constitution.

"The exercise will have to balance delicately the competing aspirations of Iraq's main ethnic and religious communities and find a compromise between secular and religious forces.

"If successfully achieved it could set Iraq on a more stable course. If badly handled, it could plunge the country into sectarian warfare.

"Among the most contentious issues in the constitutional debate will be the role of Islam in the state and in legislation, and the nature and practice of federalism." (Link 1 – excellent article)

The most immediate serious issue is however, the lack of security faced by religious minorities.

In a 27 December 2004 letter entitled, "To the Muslims in Iraq in Particular and The [Islamic] Nation in General", Osama bin Laden defined the present conflict as "a fateful war between unbelief and Islam, between the army of Muhammad, the army of belief, and the people of the cross..." (MEMRI 30 Dec 2004).

Iraq's "people of the cross" (and this is a religious identity, not an ethnic one), along with other "unbelievers" – Mandaeans, Iraq's remaining Jews, and other religious minorities – need both constitutional and legal guarantees of equality and protection, and the enforcement of those rights on the ground. Failing this, they may need a protected safe-haven.


The Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA) reports that attacks against the Mandaean community have intensified since Christmas. (Mandaeans follow the teachings of John the Baptist concerning righteousness and repentance, but reject Jesus as Messiah.) The SMAA notes also that Mandaean leaders are being targeted for assassination. Several Mandaean deacons, significant senior religious leaders, and members of priestly families have been assassinated during early January with the express purpose of shattering the Mandaean community and driving them out of Iraq.

One such assassination reported to the SMAA was that of Mr Riadh Radhi Habib, President of the Mandaean Supreme Spiritual Council, Basra Branch, who was murdered on Sunday evening 16 January 2005.

According the the report received by the SMAA, "Mr Riadh Radhi Habib was walking to his car with his children when he was approached by three Muslims armed with machine guns. The Muslims demanded that Riadh Radhi Habib convert to Islam. Riadh Radhi Habib refused to convert to Islam. The Muslims then fired one shot into Riadh Radhi Habib in front of his children. Riadh Radhi Habib fell to the ground. His children threw themselves on to Riadh Radhi Habib. The Muslims then dragged the children off Riadh Radhi Habib. The Muslims then fired more than ninety (90) shots into Riadh Radhi Habib's body, shooting his body to pieces in front of his children."

The SMAA has provided a long and detailed list of attacks that have been reported them between Christmas and mid-January. These attacks are always accompanied by commands to convert to Islam. Several victims have survived gunshot wounds to the chest. Several others were kidnapped or managed to escape attempted kidnappings only to be forced into hiding. In each of the kidnap cases reported to SMAA, ransom money was not accepted, and in some cases not even requested – the kidnappers demanded conversion to Islam.

The SMAA reports: "On 3 January 2005 Muslims in Baghdad kidnapped the Mandaean ishkander (deacon) Hadi Salem Al-Zohairy. Hadi Salem Al-Zohairy came from a devout Mandaean family; his father also was an ishkander. Initially the Muslims demanded a ransom of US $5,000. However, as the family brought the ransom the family was followed by the police. The motive of the police in following the family is obscure as the family had not contacted the police about the kidnapping. The Muslims then refused to accept any ransom for him but demanded that he and his family convert to Islam. The family [refusing to convert] offered any amount of money for the release of Hadi Salem Al-Zohairy. The Muslims said that they would kill Hadi Salem Al-Zohairy and 's*&# on your money.' The Muslims said that the family would find Hadi Salem Al-Zohairy's dead body thrown in a nearby school. The family went to the school and found Hadi Salem Al-Zohairy still bleeding from five (5) bullet wounds to his head and dying."

Worryingly, the Iraqi police are not always to be relied upon to ensure justice or security for religious minorities. SMAA reports: "On or about 10 January 2005 Muslims approached the Mandaean couple Mr Qusay Nazar Saleh Thamer and his wife Rana in Koorna in Basra and demanded that the Mandaean couple convert to Islam. When the Mandaean couple refused to convert to Islam the Muslims attempted to kill Mr Qusay Nazar Saleh Thamer and his wife Rana. Mr Qusay Nazar Saleh Thamer and his wife Rana then reported the incident to the police. The Muslims then approached the couple again and said that as Mr Qusay Nazar Saleh Thamer and his wife Rana had complained to the police Mr Qusay Nazar Saleh Thamer and his wife Rana must pay money to the Muslims. The police then arrested Mr Qusay Nazar Saleh Thamer for having made a complaint against Muslims."


On 24 January, Lord Carey (the former Archbishop of Canterbury), joined Baroness Cox, former Labour leader Michael Foot and other dignatories, along with members of the Assyrian community in London, to launch the "Save the Assyrians in Iraq" campaign at the House of Lords. (Link 2)

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the plight of Iraq's indigenous Assyrian minority, advocate for the rights of Assyrians to be enshrined in the new Iraqi Constitution, and seek guarantees that Assyrians will have security in their historic homeland, the Nineveh Plains around Mosul in Northern Iraq.

This is a wonderful and profoundly worthwhile cause that we must pray will, through the mercy and blessing of God, yield results. The Assyrians have survived centuries of violence in their homeland at the hands of invading, militant and intolerant Muslims. They have also suffered the shameful betrayals of their Allies who broke faith and left them to be massacred. It is about time Christians in the West stood and raised their voices in solidarity with their Assyrian Christian brothers and sisters.


Lord Carey says that Assyrians are victims of a campaign of ethnic cleansing. However, it is clear from the persecution directed against the Mandaeans that the motive for much of the violent persecution is religious, not ethnic. According to the SMAA, "Muslims are targeting Mandaeans both in the cities and in the villages. In Zubair ten (10) Mandaean families have been forcibly converted to Islam."

On 10 January Arabic CNN reported that relatives found the bodies of Assyrian couple, Joseph Tomeh and his wife, dead in their Baghdad house. They had both been beheaded. An article on the Assyrian International News Agency website quotes Dominican Father Mikhael Najib as telling Vatican Radio from Iraq (18 January), "'...there is a true campaign under way against Christians.' He said religious, priests and lay Christians in Mosul have faced numerous threats that have escalated in number and intensity as the Jan. 30 date for scheduled elections in Iraq neared."

It needs to be acknowledged that a religious cleansing is taking place, because a purely ethnic solution, while it would assist the Assyrian community, would still leave Christian (apostate) Kurds and Arabs, and other religious minorities, without freedom and without protection.


Iraq's newly elected 275-member Transitional National Assembly has law-making powers and will be responsible for drawing up a draft constitution by 15 August.

The most important Iraq campaign for 2005 should be to advocate for the Iraq Constitution to guarantee full religious freedom for all Iraqi citizens, for religious freedom to be protected by law (no unofficial sanctioning of death for apostates), and for all Iraqis to have equality before the law – no discrimination, no dhimmis, no second class citizens whose lives are worth less, and no "kafir" (unclean). And the basic inalienable human rights of individuals (such as right to life, right to freedom of religion) are not to be granted as condescending favours, but as the legitimate rights of all Iraqi citizens.

Also religious freedom must be defined as: "Everyone [as individuals] has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." (article 18, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

In other words, the provision that no legislation can be enacted if it is contrary to the "universally agreed upon tenets of Islam," must be removed from the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL, interim constitution). This phrase abrogates all that is progressive in the TAL. It certainly abrogates the TAL's offer of religious freedom.

If the "tenets of Islam" are given ultimate authority then more than 22 million Muslims will have absolutely no religious freedom (sharia is the antitheses of religious liberty, mandating death for apostates – those who renounce Islam), society will be plagued with inequality, and women and non-Muslims will face discrimination and persecution. Any commitment to enacting equality (which is contrary to Qur'anic Islam) would however, need to be matched by a commitment to guarantee security. Because, as the history of the 20th Century demonstrates, intolerant and militant Muslims who simply cannot cope with the undoing of the Islamic order, may prefer to slaughter non-Muslim citizens than live with them as equals.

Religious freedom and security for religious minorities (includes converts) must become realities before anyone boasts "freedom". To boast "freedom" is ridiculous when the expression of religious freedom would prove fatal.


When non-Muslim nations endorse sharia in Muslim nations, they are not acting with tolerance – they are legitimising, and being complicit with, intolerance. Sharia's threat of death to apostates is Islam's bodyguard, its "Berlin Wall" – designed not to keep people out, but to keep them in. One must question why Islam should require such oppressive protective measures.

Elizabeth Kendal


1) The real battle for Iraq comes next: drafting a permanent constitution
By Roula Khalaf, Financial Times, 31 January 2005

2) Carey: Save Iraq Assyrians from Ethnic Cleansing
By John-Paul Ford Rojas, PA 24 Jan 2004

Friday, May 28, 2004

Iraq: can sovereignty guarantee security?

Date: Friday 28 May 2004
Subj: Iraq: can sovereignty guarantee security?
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


Reports of intimidation and violence indicate that the situation is deteriorating for non-Muslims in Iraq's hot spots. When these concerns are expressed, the response is invariably that sovereignty is the key to security in Iraq. Yet in Fallujah, where US troops have withdrawn and control has been handed to Iraqi forces, religious minorities appear to be more at risk than ever as the town descends into a Taliban-style Islamic mini-state. This leads us to ask, "Security for whom?"

If the US and allied troops are going to withdraw and evacuate before they can guarantee the security and future of the non-Muslim population of Iraq, then they should take the vulnerable religious minorities with them. Refuge should then be provided in America and its allied nations.

This scenario is of course not what the Iraqi religious minorities want. They want security in their homeland, the homeland of their ancestors and their immense history.


The Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA) is receiving regular reports of kidnappings and murders of Mandaeans (who follow the teachings and practice of John the Baptist).

On Friday 21 May it was reported to the SMAA: "Two more Mandaean children have been kidnapped by Muslims in Iraq. Mohand Wasfi Hnadi aged 15 years, was kidnapped by Muslims in Basra 14 days ago. Osama Ashor Hwail aged 12 years, was kidnapped by Muslims in Basra 4 days ago. There are fears that they may have been forcibly circumcised and forcibly converted to Islam."

On Friday 21 May the SMAA was informed that a young Mandaean man aged 22 years, was killed two days earlier in Baghdad by members of Al-Sadr's "Mehdi Army". He was the only son of his parents.

On 25 May the SMAA was informed of the kidnapping of a female Mandaean college student, close to her house the Zayoona area, as she was returning home from her final exams. Her parents were contacted to pay one million dollars for her safety.

These kidnapping reports are frequent and in most cases the victims are not heard of again - they simply "disappear". According to the SMAA this has particularly been the case in respect with women and girls who have been kidnapped by Muslims.

The SMAA is also receiving reports of Mandaeans being intimidated and terrorised and of Muslims seizing the opportunity to repudiate debts owed to Mandaeans. Of course the Mandaean creditors have no remedy and no redress.

The SMAA understand that considerable numbers of Mandaeans have now fled from Iraq and more are now preparing to flee.


On 25 May, the SMAA received confirmation that the Mandaean Church (Mandi) in Baghdad had received a letter demanding that the Mandaeans take part in the Muslims' attacks upon the Americans with the threat of reprisals by the Muslims if the Mandaeans fail to do so.

Assyrian Christians have also received threatening letters telling them to support Muslim rebellion and practise Islam or suffer the consequences. One such letter was passed to Assyrian Christian News. Both the scanned Arabic hand written letter and an English translation can be found at <>.

The recipients of this letter are told to stand with the "'Brothers of Muslims' group" and follow the Muslims' basic rules of wearing the Islamic veil and following Islamic teaching. If the recipients do not submit and comply, then it is threatened that they will be raped, tortured, killed, kidnapped, or have their house, along with their family, burned or "exploded".

The letter is signed in Persian, from the "Islamic troops of Bader in Najaf, Tehran - The Islamic Campaign".

The SMAA comments that the letter to the Assyrian Christians reads very much like the letter sent to the Mandaean Mandi.

This appears to be an orchestrated campaign of jihad, to fully Islamise the community.


US troops withdrew from Fallujah in early May under an agreement that ended a three-week siege. They were replaced by local Iraqi police and Fallujah was placed under the control of a new Iraqi military force, the Fallujah Brigade, led by Lt. Gen. Salah Abboud al-Jabouri, a former officer in Saddam Hussein Republican Guard, and a native of Fallujah.

Hamza Hendawi reports for the Associated Press, "With U.S. Marines gone and central government authority virtually nonexistent, Fallujah resembles an Islamic mini-state." Hendawi's report on Fallujah is chilling. (Link 1)

As Hendawi notes, "Under the agreement, the Marines handed security in the city to a new Fallujah Brigade made up largely of local residents and commanded by officers of Saddam Hussein's former army.

"With the departure of the Marines, the position of the U.S.-appointed civil administration has been weakened in favor of the clerics and the mujahedeen who resisted the U.S. occupation. That is a pattern that could be repeated elsewhere in Iraq after the occupation ends June 30, unless other legitimate leaders come forward to replace those tainted by association with the occupation."

Hendawi reports from Fallujah, "On Sunday, for example, scores of masked mujahedeen, shouting 'Allahu Akbar,' or 'God is Great,' paraded four men stripped down to their underpants atop the back of a pickup that drove through the city. Their bare backs were bleeding from 80 lashes they had received as punishment for selling alcohol. They were taken to a hospital where they were treated and released.

"On Tuesday, the mujahedeen expanded their 'cleanup' campaign. About 80 masked, armed men, accompanied by local police, forced hundreds of street hawkers at gunpoint to clear out from the streets and confine their businesses to designated areas.

"According to residents, barbers have been instructed not to give 'Western' haircuts - short on the back and sides and full on top - or to remove facial hair."


Considering the influence Iraq's senior Shi'a cleric Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani is likely to have in the new Iraq, it might be advisable for everyone to familiarise themselves with his website.

Under "Islamic laws" -- under "Najis things", Sistani gives a list of those things Muslims are to consider najis (unclean). Sistani says, "The following ten things are essentially najis: Urine, Faeces, Semen, Dead body, Blood, Dog, Pig, Kafir, Alcoholic liquors, The sweat of an animal who persistently eats najasat."

Sistani's definition of "Kafir": "An infidel i.e. a person who does not believe in Allah and His Oneness, is najis... similar is the case of those who deny Prophethood, or any of the necessary laws of Islam... The entire body of a Kafir, including his hair and nails, and all liquid substances of his body, are najis. As regards the People of the Book (i.e. the Jews and the Christians) who do not accept the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad bin Abdullah (Peace be upon him and his progeny), they are commonly considered najis, but it is not improbable that they are Pak [clean]. However, it is better to avoid them."

It must be noted though, that in spite of being najis (unclean), kafir (infidels) may be used for the purpose of temporary marriage (marriage for a set period of time i.e. half an hour, in exchange for payment).

In other words, according to Al-Sistani, Mandaeans and Christians are confirmed and condemned as filth and good for nothing but prostitution.

- Elizabeth Kendal


1) Fallujah slides toward Islamic state
By Hamza Hendawi. The Associated Press.
Fallujah, Iraq. 26 May 2004

Friday, January 30, 2004

Iraq: the persecution of Mandaeans

Date: Friday 30 January 2004
Subj: Iraq: the persecution of Mandaeans
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


Mandaeans follow the teachings and practice of John the Baptist. Since Ayatollah Al-Hakeem declared Iraq's Mandaeans to be "unclean" and not "People of the Book", the situation for Mandaeans in post war Iraq has become critical. It is not an exaggeration to say that their survival as a people is seriously at risk.


Before his assassination at the Tomb of Imam Ali in Najaf in August 2003, prominent Shiite leader and jurist Ayatollah Al-Hakeem decreed that Mandaeans do not have the status of People of the Book (Ahl-i-Kitab). This declaration remains on his Arabic website. This means Mandaeans are "unclean" (najes) and not to be "protected" as People of the Book. They may be killed or forcibly converted to Islam. This indeed appears to be what is happening on the ground.


The Qur'an mandates a system of Islamic apartheid. In the Islamic State, those regarded as "unclean" (pagans, idolaters) are to be killed or converted to Islam, while those regarded as "People of the Book" are afforded "protection". Protection enables the People of the Book, primarily Jews and Christians, to purchase their right to life and right to keep their own religion through payment of jizya (special tax) and submission to a life of utter subjugation. (See
Qur'an Sura 9:29.) Non-payment of jizya or any sign of rebellion against their subjugated status (i.e. criticism of the Qur'an, or reaction against abuse) results in protection being withdrawn and a state of war (jihad) resuming.

Sabaeans (Mandaeans) are mentioned three times in the Qur'an. Sura 2:62 states that Jews, Christians and Sabaeans - those who believe in God, the Last Day and do what is right - will have nothing to fear in judgement. Sura 5:69 says the same but also includes believers (Muslims). Sura 22:17 says that believers (Muslims), Jews, Sabaeans, Christians, magicians and pagans will all be judged by God on the Day of Resurrection.

The status of Sabaean Mandaeans has varied throughout Islamic history. In early days Sabaeans were regarded as People of the Book and protected. However, by the tenth century the Sabaeans, who were by then living in al-Wasit (Iraq), were officially declared to be "unclean" and not dhimmis (protected people). (Footnote 1)


The Sabaean Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA) reports that on or about 20 December 2003, Rafid Al-Khamisy, a Mandaean, was confronted by Muslims in front of a number of people in Hay Al-Shurtha suburb in Baghdad. The Muslims demanded that Rafid Al-Khamisy convert to Islam. Rafid Al-Khamisy refused to convert to Islam and the Muslims then killed him in front of the others who were present.

On 20 January the SMAA reported, "The Sabian Mandaean Association in Australia has now been advised that in Falluja alone thirty-five (35) Mandaean families have been forcibly converted to Islam. This also involves forced circumcision. The Mandaean women and girls of these families have been forcibly married to Muslim men chosen by the Muslims. The suffering that has been inflicted is incalculable.

"It has also been reported to us (SMAA) that a group of Muslim men seized a seven (7) year old Mandaean boy, doused him in petrol and set him alight. As the child was being burnt to death the Muslims were running around shouting, 'Burn the dirty infidel!'

"It has also been reported to us that a young Mandaean man went into a restaurant and drank a glass of water. Some Muslims realised that he was Mandaean so they beat him severely, breaking many of his bones so that he needed to be hospitalised. The Muslims then broke the glass he had drunk from because, according to Islam, it had been rendered ritually 'unclean'. We have been informed that there have been many incidents of this kind.

"Recently a Muslim magazine published a picture of Christ and His Mother Mary next to an article claiming that all Christian homes were brothels making money from the American troops. On this occasion the American authorities intervened to stop the circulation of the magazine."

SMAA has many such cases of documented persecution. "Raeed Hwaiel was in his house in Basra when Muslims threw two grenades into his house in October 2003. Ms Abrar Saaeed was kidnapped by Muslims and forcibly converted to Islam together with her family in Basra in November 2003. Jinan Bassim Tabit was kidnapped by Muslims in Baghdad in September 2003. Seaa Mehsen was killed by Muslims in Baghdad in October 2003." The SMAA sent me (E.Kendal) an email on 12 January with 30 such cases listed in detail. They acknowledge with much grief that this is only the tip of the iceberg, as the reports they receive are primarily from those Mandaeans with relatives in Australia.

The persecution is not localised. Mandaeans are being persecuted wherever they are found - Baghdad, Falluja, Basra. The persecution is also frequent and committed with impunity.

The Sabaean Mandaean Association of Australia believes all governments with troops in Iraq should be required to rescue from Iraq all the Mandaeans and Christians who have been forcibly
converted to Islam.

- Elizabeth Kendal


1) Bat Ye'or. The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: from
Jihad to Dhimmitude. 1996.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Iraq: Will the Mandaeans Survive Post-War Iraq?

Date: Thursday 24 July 2003
Subj: Iraq: Will the Mandaeans Survive Post-War Iraq?
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


Mandaeans are a small pre-Christian sect that honours John the Baptist. They are believed to have originated in Jordan, but persecution in the first century forced them to emigrate east. There are an estimated 100,000 Mandaeans worldwide, mainly in Iraq and Iran.

The Mandaeans have survived 1400 years of Islamic persecution, which includes many massacres of Mandaeans throughout the centuries. In 1870 an entire Mandaean community was massacred at Shushtar, north of Ahwaz in southwestern Iran, close to the southern Iraqi border.

Other forms of persecution include harassment and abuse, often accompanied with violence, in the streets and at the daily public Mandaean baptisms. Mandaean couples are often forced to divorce so that Muslim marriages can be imposed upon them, thus ensuring the Mandaeans lose their Mandaean identity.

In Islamic communities, Mandaeans are regarded as infidels (kaffir) and unclean (najes), hence they can have great difficulty obtaining employment and education. Islamic persecution has led many Mandaeans to emigrate. Others flee as asylum seekers, many of whom struggle against misinformation and propaganda for the right to be granted refugee status.

As Islamic fervor has risen, persecution has increased. A report by the Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA) notes, "While the secular regime of Saddam Hussein had, to some extent, kept Islamic extremism in check, in the period leading up to the outbreak of war the Iraqi regime had sought to appeal to Muslim feeling against the 'infidels' (kaffir). Accordingly, television received in Ahwaz, Iran (both Iraqi and Iranian TV), had been constantly pouring out venomous hatred of the 'infidels', and Muslim feeling has become inflamed."

Persecution has skyrocketed and more than 80 Mandaeans have been murdered since the fall of Baghdad in April. Now there is great concern that Iraq's Mandaean community, having survived 1400 years of struggle, may not survive post-war Iraq.



The Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA), based in Sydney (home to some 2,000 Mandaeans) reports that more than 80 Mandaeans have been murdered in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad. In the days immediately following the fall of Baghdad, Islamists murdered some 30 Mandaeans in Baghdad alone. In the days after the fall of Baghdad, one Mandaean was attacked in his home and seriously wounded. A Mandaean doctor operated on him, without anaesthetic. The doctor was killed the next day.

Muslims have also raped at least 20 Mandaean women and young girls since the "end of the war", although this figure is likely to be much, much higher as most rape cases go unreported due to fear, shame and humiliation. As committed pacifists, the Mandaeans are extremely vulnerable as they are not only despised, but they are unarmed and defenceless.

The threat of sexual assault is particularly serious, as Islamic judges in Iran have set the precedent that the rape of a Mandaean woman can be regarded as an act of "purification", and as such, violators receive impunity. In Iran this defence has been used to acquit men of rapes on Mandaean girls as young as 8 years old.

Some 30 Mandaeans have been murdered in Basra in recent months. The remaining Mandaeans are fleeing and the SMAA has lost all contact with them. Allegedly, coalition forces are advising the Mandaeans to flee, as they cannot offer them protection. There is concern that Mandaeans may also have been murdered in the north, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Dr. Edward Crangle is the Post-Graduate Research Co-coordinator in the Department of Studies in Religion with the University of Sydney. In a letter dated 21 April 2003, he wrote, "Since the demise of the recent Iraqi regime, many Sabian Mandaeans have been murdered by various extremist Muslim groups and tribes, including the extremely fundamentalist religious Sunni and Sheaat groups and parties such as Al-Wahabin, Al-Daawa Al-Islamiah and Ikhwan Al-Moslemin."


Above and beyond the human rights violations and threat to life, the Mandaean community actually fears that some Iraqi Islamists have genocidal intentions and would be willing to effect a 'Final Solution'.

According to mail received by SMAA from Iraq, amongst the abuse being meted out to Mandaeans are phrases such as, "You are kaffirs (infidels)! We will treat you like the Jews! Get out of Iraq! This is an Islamic country! This is a clean country!"

Very recently, the President of the SMAA was able to speak by phone to a Mandaean clergyman in Baghdad who said that Mandaeans are living in a state of terror. He said they fear that one night the Muslims will just kill all of them. He also said that many Iraqis who formerly supported the Hussein regime are now supporting the Islamists in their campaign against invaders and infidels.

Mandaeans in Ahwaz (in Iran) have reported to the SMAA that they also are receiving news of murders of Mandaeans in Iraq. The Mandaean Archbishop in Australia visited Iran from 5 March to 10 May. He testifies that the situation for Mandaeans in Iran has also deteriorated considerably since the fall of Baghdad, and there is much fear. (In Iran, Mandaeans are an illegal sect without religious or legal recognition.)

One Mandaean in Ahwaz reports that he was traveling in a taxi with Muslims who were unaware that he was Mandaean. One of the Muslim men remarked that he was hopeful the time would soon come when the Muslims would be given permission to attack the areas where the infidels live.


There are reports that many Mandaeans are sharing accommodation and living together out of fear for their lives. However, as soon as their homes are unoccupied, Muslims acquire them. One Mandaean woman lost her home to a Shi'a cleric this way. One family was forced out of their home by Islamists who then immediately fixed green flags to the roof and converted the home into a headquarters for their movement.

One Mandaean who corresponds with the SMAA through a brother in Australia reports that Muslims are threatening to take over the Mandaean's mandi (church) and convert it into a mosque. This builds on another precedent established in Iran where, in 1989, the Mandaean mandi in Awhaz was confiscated and converted into headquarters for the Islamic Religious Police.


The Mandaeans, like the Christians, are also living in fear of an Islamic state under Sharia law. The new 25-member Iraqi Governing Council is made up of thirteen Shi'a Arabs, five Sunni Arabs, five Sunni Kurds, one Assyrian Christian Arab and one Turkman.

The Shi'a group includes the secretary-general of the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood, and a Shi'a cleric named Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim who is the brother of Ayatollah Mohammad Baqr al-Hakim - the leader of Iranian-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). (The Ayatollah returned from exile in Iran in May and set up the SCIRI headquarters in Al-Najaf.) Also on the council are two representatives from the Shi'a Islamist al-Da'awa Party and two
from the Iraqi Hezbollah (Sunni). Stratfor Intelligence ( confirms that in all, seven members of the council are staunch Islamists.

U.S. President G.W. Bush said on 24 April, that he was determined to see an "Islamic democracy" built in Iraq. However, as Stratfor Intelligence notes, "The problem is that neither the United States nor the Iraqi people have a model of Islamic democracy to emulate." Also: "The Iraqi Governing Council is bound to face a crisis of legitimacy, since it is a U.S.-appointed, not elected, body." (Stratfor, Global Intelligence Report, 16 July 2003).

SCIRI, the best organised Shi'a political party in Iraq, initially rejected the Iraqi Governing Council because it is U.S.-appointed, not elected. However, the U.S. desire to have SCIRI represented on the council gave SCIRI leverage such that it was able to effect changes to the Iraq Governing Council membership in the last moments before it was unveiled, in exchange for SCIRI participation.

For further information on this issue see: "Iraq's New Governing Council: A Profile" (the first half of this article is an analysis, the second half is a profile of each member)


Mandaeans, along with other religious minorities in Iraq are at great risk at this time of instability and lawlessness, and the future is not looking much brighter.

- Elizabeth Kendal