What will happen to Iraq’s Mandaeans?

Is it possible for the Mandaean sect not to be able to print its holy scriptures, such as the Ginza Rba, due to lack of financial allocations? Mandaean clerics are the poorest clerics among religious sects [in Iraq] because they are fully dedicated to religious affairs and have no financial resources or salaries by the government.

Mandaeans do not have any properties or investments that generate funds, such as the Islamic or Christian endowments. Mandaean clerics do not receive any paychecks from the government as is the case of Muslim clerics who are in charge of supervising mosques and Husseiniya councils. Moreover, Shiite clerics, for instance, receive religious donations known as khums. But there are no Mandaean wealthy traders to make such donations to this small community, as most of them left Iraq. We are a forgotten sect in Iraq and are on the verge of extinction.

Al-Monitor:  Do you feel there is discrimination against Mandaeans on the official level?

Maghamiss:  Mandaeans complain of a discriminatory preferential treatment regarding the construction of places of worship. While it is easy for Muslims to build a mosque or a Shiite shrine, constructing a mandi requires cumbersome administrative measures and prior approvals.

Mandaeans have no place to perform their rituals in numerous regions [in Iraq], especially in al-Qurnah in Basra province, in Kut, which is the center of Wasit province, and in Sawira in Wasit province. A large number of Mandaean families reside in these regions [there are no official statistics whether from Mandaeans or the state].

There is an urgent need for constructing mandis to allow the Mandaean population to practice their religious rituals, especially in light of the scarce financial resources of this sect and the lack of sufficient financial allocations in Iraq’s budget to the divan to allow it to acquire real estates and build mandis.

Mandaeans also complain of a discriminatory preferential treatment on another level, related to the investment of their endowments and properties. While it is permissible for Muslim endowments by the Ministry of Planning to invest their lands in projects, such as using them as parking spaces, building hotels, playgrounds and other projects, Mandaeans are not allowed to construct guest houses or religious schools or even residence complexes for their clergy. The Mandaeans are even not allowed to invest in projects of public interest, such as the construction of a hospital, for example.

Al-Monitor:  What are your current and future personal ambitions?

Maghamiss:  I want to fulfill the Mandaeans’ needs. They need to have a place of worship, an administration complex, guest houses, schools and cultural buildings in the provinces where they reside, such as the provinces of Maysan, Basra, Qadisiyah and Dhi Qar. My political ambition is to represent the Mandaeans at a higher level.

I want the Mandaeans to have a member of the parliament or a minister. My experience in engineering may be put to use in the Ministry of Housing and Construction, the Ministry of Municipalities [and Public Works] and the secretariat of Baghdad. This is how I will seek to serve my country.

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