The Mandaean religion is millenary, even though largely a minority. Mandaeans flew from current Israel to Mesopotamia during the two centuries following the death of Christ. They have survived, keeping their beliefs and their language, Mandaic, which is a variety of Aramaic. They have always lived near rivers to make the practice of purifying baptism, the most important mystical experience in their doctrine, easier.
After 20 centuries of existence, they have found themselves immersed in the scenario of modern wars, suffering a double persecution. Persecution became especially cruel in Iraq since the US intervention ended the religious tolerance of Sadam Hussein’s Ba’ath government. Mandaeans suffered a genocide that forced them to either convert, flee or die. The 60.000 Mandaeans in Iraq fled to the West and Syria. There are now under10% of the Mandeans there were before 2003. They are considered to be the last Gnostics and the last Essenes.
Many of these refugees went to Syria, also ruled by the religiously tolerant Ba’ath party. They lived there for several years until the rebel militias, armed again by the US, rose up against Assad, imposing Islam with a blow from a rifle. That is why Mandaeans want restoration of the prior status in Syria. However, it is possibly too late for that to happen and the largest Mandaean communities are now those among the diaspora in Iran and also in Canada and Australia. Their millenary culture is surely under death threat. Oddly enough, like the Mandaeans the Syrian Christians and the Kurdish minority have also opposed rebels, who are beheading and executing all members of ethnic and religious minorities, breaking the fragile balance that the Ba’ath government used to keep.
Editor at 'Help Catalonia' & the author of 'El moviment nacional escocès (The Scottish National Movement)