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Last updated: January 2021

COI summary

[Targeting, 3.4.8; COI query on Sabean-Mandaean]

The Sabean-Mandaeans are the smallest ethno-religious minority in Iraq, with estimated numbers less than 5 000. Their area is in southern Iraq, including Basrah and the southern governorates of Dhi Qar and Maysan, but small numbers also live in Baghdad and the KRI. According to the Special Rapporteur on minority issues to the UN Human Rights Council, ‘their language, culture and religion are thought to be at risk of extinction in Iraq’.

Sabean-Mandaeans have fled ISIL-controlled areas and have become internally displaced, while many are said to have departed the country.

They have also faced violence by both Shia and Sunni Islamic groups and continue to be actively targeted. Numerous attacks have taken place against community members, their property and places of worship, including targeted killings of individuals. They have been extorted and pressured to conform to Islamic principles by financially supporting Shia rituals, parades and public events, especially during Islamic holidays. Not participating in such societal displays is considered to put Sabean-Mandaeans at risk of becoming disenfranchised from the local community.

Sabean-Mandaeans were perceived as rich because they were associated with the jewellery trade. Because of this, they became a target for extortion by extremist groups and criminal gangs. Especially in Baghdad, members of the Sabean-Mandaean community are often associated with wealth since many of its members work within the jewellery and gold/silversmith businesses. In addition, the Sabean-Mandaeans are by their religion prohibited to resort to arms, even in self-defence. Thus, community members were especially exposed to face robberies of their goldsmith, silversmith and jewellery stores.

Being Arabic speakers, Sabean-Mandaeans who fled to KRI faced a language barrier when interacting with the Kurdish majority, experiencing racism and sometimes discrimination or verbal abuse on account of being perceived as ‘Arabs from the south’. Being displaced into the KRI with a weak social network, the community lacks access to employment and economic opportunities.

Sabean-Mandaeans experience discrimination and negative stereotyping in all aspects of public life. Outside the KRI, Sabean-Mandaean women have been reported to opt to wear the hijab after continuous harassment.

Risk analysis

The acts to which applicants could be exposed are of such severe nature that they would amount to persecution (e.g. harassment, physical assaults, killings). In other cases, individuals could be exposed to (solely) discriminatory measures, and the individual assessment of whether or not discrimination could amount to persecution should take into account the severity and/or repetitiveness of the acts or whether they occur as an accumulation of various measures.

Not all individuals under this profile would face the level of risk required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether or not there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to face persecution should take into account risk-impacting circumstances such as: area of origin (the risk is lower in KRI), language, gender, etc.

Nexus to a reason for persecution

Available information indicates that persecution of this profile is for reasons of religion and/or race (in particular in the KRI).