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against their subjugated status (i.e. criticism of the Qur'an, or reaction against abuse) results in protection being withdrawn and a state of war (jihad) resuming.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.