Mar 21 2013
By Khayoun Saleh
Azzaman, March 21, 2013
One of Iraq’s most ancient communities is threatened with extinction with only a few thousand remaining in the country.
The Mandeans, who are locally known as Sabaeans, were present in Iraq, and specifically in the southern plateau between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, more than 2000 years ago.
Prior to the 2003-U.S. invasion there were a total of 75,000 Mandeans in the country, according Sattar Jabbar, the community’s deputy religious leader.
Today, Jabbar says, the majority has fled with about 10,000 remaining in the country and many of them would want to leave had they the means to do so.
The Mandeans trace their religion to John the Baptist and have traditionally been known to be the country’s finest silver and gold craftsmen as well as canoe builders.
Iraq was home to almost half of the community’s population in the world, estimated at 1500,000 people.
The Mandeans are one of the world’s most peaceful communities with religious practices of great antiquity.
Most of Iraqi Mandeans used to live in southern Iraq and close to the marshes, where water is abundant. Water is an essential element in their religion as immersing in it regularly is a sign of purification.
Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, is still their mother tongue and their holy books and texts are written in it.
Jabbar said his people were victims of the violence that engulfed Iraq in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion, adding that many Mandeans have been killed and others kidnapped.
Insecurity forced many to leave and most of those staying behind live in the southern provinces of Basra and Missan, he said.
“I fear that our community will become extinct in Iraq.”
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