Iraq's pacifist sect stuck in refugee limbo

Reported in The Australian:

THE Aedan family is stuck. Nine months ago they fled violence and persecution in Iraq to join an estimated 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria. But life over the border is bleak; they are unable to work, unable to pay for basic supplies, and unable to imagine an end to their ordeal.

Last month, the family was one of a lucky few. They were advised by the International Organisation for Migration they had a place in the US.

But for the Aedans, it was the beginning of a new nightmare. After losing their father to a brutal attack and their eldest son to a kidnapping in Baghdad, the family had dreamed of nothing but coming to Australia.

In Sydney, members of their family live in a thriving community of their little-known sect, Sabian Mandaean. They practise a pacifist religion thought to pre-date Christianity, with prophets including Adam and John the Baptist. Until 2003, most of the estimated 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide lived in Iraq. But many have since fled to Syria and Jordan, hoping for resettlement in a third country. Only about 5000 remain in Iraq.

Eschewing violence, even in self-defence, Mandaeans have been easy targets of the sectarian violence that erupted after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

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