The Sabian-Mandaean religion is one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the Middle East lived mainly in Southern Iraq and few in Iran. It is independent of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It follows the teachings of John the Baptist; baptism being its central ritual. The Mandaeans are around sixty thousand at the present time. During the past decade, and especially the past three years, thousands have escaped Iraq and Iran, choosing self-exile and escape rather than death and persecution. There is now a large refugee population in Syria (2100 families), Jordan, (500 families), Yemen (46 individuals) and smaller numbers in Lebanon, Egypt, Mali, and Thailand.
Major changes have happened in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Husain. The situation has deteriorated especially recently. Chaos and civil war are in the horizon. The sectarian identity among Iraqis has preceded the national identity and the violence is increasing in scope and lethality. Sunni and Shia death squads are roaming the streets of Baghdad and other cities of Iraq. These death squads are killing based on the last names and religious affiliation. Mandaeans are targeted by both sides. Hundreds have been killed and numbers are increasing rapidly.
Forceful conversion is happening to an alarming degree. Boys are being kidnapped, forcefully circumcised (a major sin in Mandaean religion) and forcefully converted to Islam. Young girls have been kidnapped, raped, or forced to marry Muslims. Families receive threats demanding that they either convert or pay “Jizia,” a ransom paid allowing others to live among Muslims. Confiscation of property is becoming a common, unpunished practice. Mandaean houses are being taken in different areas. Often, police and neighbours are unwilling to provide assistance. Employment in Iraq is now related to political, sectarian and ethnic affiliation rather than qualifications. The Government is the major employer in Iraq. The ministries are divided among the Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish factions and they deny others, namely Mandaeans and Christians, any chances of employment.
More than 80% of the Mandaean community has been displaced to outside Iraq. The Mandaean community in Iraq has dwindled from more than 60 thousand in the early 1990s to 5-7 thousand today. Those Mandaeans who are unable to leave Iraq are currently moving to different cities inside the country. Mandaeans have tried to express their concerns through the political process in Iraq, however, contacts with officials, religious leaders, and political party leaders usually end in empty promises. The police force is corrupt, often helps attackers, and has little to no role in protecting minorities. Mandaeans situation is different from other minorities in Iraq as they do not have any identified geographical area as their save haven, they have no choice but to leave Iraq seeking for refuge. The Situation in Syria and Jordan is dire for refugees. These countries are neither ready nor willing to help thousands of refugees and a humanitarian disaster is eminent. Refuge seekers are denied work, education, health care and most of all protection from abuses. Children are pushed into illegal child labor. Some girls are being lured into the sex trade and some are kidnapped and married by sex traders to be sold in other countries.