Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Violations against Sabean-Mandaeans

Written by  Minorities Rights Group International

Though named by the Qur'an as one of the 'Peoples of the Book', Sabean-Mandaeans are considered as believers by some groups and have been the targets of killings, threats and kidnappings on the basis of their religious identity. Due to the fact that many Sabean-Mandaeans traditionally work as goldsmiths, their perceived wealth is another factor contributing to the high rate of
kidnappings and armed robberies. However, in some cases, individuals were attacked without any of their possessions being stolen, indicating that religious hatred was the underlying reason for the attack.51
In June 2013, gunmen entered the house of Bashier Hamied, a Sabean-Mandaean priest in Amarah, firing shots at him and his family members without succeeding in killing any of them. In July 2013, a newly built Mandaean house of worship was set on fire in Diwaniyah. Community representatives assert that the building was allowed to burn for four hours while fire fighters in the area did nothing to stop the blaze.52 In October 2013, Baghdad goldsmith Ihssan Jeddan Abbed was the victim of an armed robbery, and suffered severe wounds after being shot in the chest by a silenced revolver. The same month, four young goldsmiths living in Baiji in the north of Iraq received threats and were blackmailed for ransoms of several thousand dollars each. In November and December 2013, Aaied Neim Zekheir and Amier Hatab Jabbar, two Sabean-Mandaean police officers living and working in Kirkuk, were killed in two separate attacks while a third police officer, Ahmad Farag Dawood Al-Beriji, was seriously injured.53
Two Sabean-Mandaean families reported to MRG that ISIS militants bombed and looted their homes in Anbar Governorate in December 2013: the family of Ayad Neim Fliah from Ramadi and the family of Amer Dagher Aofi from Falluja. According to them, the official reports attributed the damage to their homes as part of the general ISIS assault on the area, failing to note that the homes were specifically targeted because they belonged to Sabean-Mandaeans.
Ihab Rashid Lefte, the wife of Ayad, recounts what happened the day of the bombing:
" Before they bombed the house, armed men stormed our house and threatened us with their weapons. We were very scared. My father in law had a heart condition, and he couldn't stand the shock, and he died. And since then we are displaced, moving from place to place. We don't have anything now, we lost all our belongings, and we have no refuge" .
Attacks have continued in other parts of the country throughout 2014. Mandaean families periodically receive envelopes with a bullet inside of them, warning them to leave. " In January 2014, Rami Jebbar Swadi Al-Mesodni was killed in his home in Basra. His attackers slit his throat and then burned his body, but did not steal any of his possessions"
On 25 June 2014, Ayed Nezzal Khalif Al-Kohaili was murdered by shotgun as he was closing up his shop in Al-Mahmoudia, south of Baghdad. He had apparently previously applied for asylum in Sweden but was refused and forced to return to Iraq.
In August, the community experienced a wave of kidnappings. On 1 August 2014, a 21-year old SabeanMandaean goldsmith was kidnapped in Amarah, Missan Province. At the time of writing of this report, he had not been released despite the fact that his family had paid the ransom. On 18 August 2014, 25-year old Nowar Hussein Rathi Zeboon was kidnapped in Baghdad AlJedida area. Despite the fact that his family paid a ransom of $50,000, he was later found killed and thrown in a rubbish collecting site, with signs of torture on his body.
Attacks on Sabean-Mandaeans are rarely investigated or prosecuted. According to Reshamma Sattar, the head of the community, the authorities merely record the details of the crimes, but do not follow up. The Reshamma referred to a case two years ago of 40-year old Haythem Jabbar Matr, who was kidnapped in Amarah and whose badly disfigured corpse was later discovered near Najaf. Despite the fact that the perpetrators admitted to the crime and despite the existence of audio and video evidence incriminating them, there has still been no verdict against them.
Due to the high prevalence of threats, attacks and kidnappings, the attendance of Sabean-Mandaeans at religious ceremonies is very low. In March 2014 for example, the Sabean-Mandaean community in Kirkuk was forced to cancel celebrations for the 5-day festival of creation, due to the deteriorating security situation.
Sabean-Mandaean families have also been affected by the advance of ISIS forces in Northern Iraq. There are at least 22 Sabean-Mandaean families who have become internally displaced by the latest wave of violence, having lost everything they owned when they fled their homes.62 Sabean-Mandeans fear that staying in ISIS-controlled areas will mean either forced conversions or death, since ISIS does not consider them to be 'People of the Book' and will not offer them the option of paying jizya as they have offered to Christians.63 As a result, many are leaving the country. Amer Dagher Aofi, whose house in Fallujah was bombed, expresses feelings shared by many:
"I don't want to stay in Iraq anymore. The situation has changed completely now. When this crisis happened, even my neighbors participating in looting my home."