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WikiLeaks: 2009-10-31: 09BAGHDAD2911: Leader of Sabean-Mandeans Says Community Under Renewed Threat

by WikiLeaks. 09BAGHDAD2911: October 31, 2009.

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 09:58 AM UT


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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09BAGHDAD2911 2009-10-31 15:56 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
DE RUEHGB #2911/01 3041556
P 311556Z OCT 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 002911 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/20/2019 
     B. BAGHDAD 2528 
Classified By: Political Counselor Yuri Kim for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
1. (C) SUMMARY: The leader of Iraq's Sabean-Mandean 
community, Sheikh Sittar Hillo, tells us that the Mandeans 
have received new death threats from extremist elements over 
the past ten days and that 10 Mandeans have been murdered 
over the past year.  Hillo complained that the GOI has been 
negligent in addressing the Mandeans' plight, but conceding 
that the community has received some benefits recently in 
terms of quota seats and other government employment.  Hillo 
plans to meet with Grand Ayatollah Sistani within the next 10 
days and to press him for a statement supporting the Mandean 
community in Iraq.  END SUMMARY. 
Violence and Discrimination Against Mandeans 
2. (C) On October 19, Poloff met with the leader of Iraq's 
Sabean-Mandean community, Sheikh Sittar Hillo who stated that 
his community continues to suffer from criminal and sectarian 
violence.  Hillo detailed five incidents that have taken 
place over the past 13 months -- four in Baghdad and one in 
Basra -- that have left 10 Mandeans dead, including his 
uncle.  Hillo believed these attacks had sectarian motives 
and shared copies of death threats that he said 20 Mandean 
goldsmiths had received within the last 10 days.  The 
letters, from groups calling themselves the Regiments of the 
Army of Omar and the State of the Wise Islamic Caliph, demand 
that the Mandeans convert to Islam, leave Iraq, or be killed. 
 (Note: No Mandeans were among the seven killed in a robbery 
of goldsmiths in Baghdad on October 14.  A recent report 
issued by the Ministry of Human Rights noted that from 2003 
to 2007, 127 Mandeans had been killed in Iraq.  End note.) 
3. (C) Hillo described the societal pressures that the 
Mandeans face from the majority Muslim community, especially 
in the Iraqi school system.  According to Hillo, Mandean 
girls are forced to wear the veil beginning in the first 
grade and Mandean children are forced to study the Koran as 
part of the school curriculum.  He also said that a number of 
school teachers and administrators discriminated against 
Mandean children and had physically abused them.  (Note: 
Iraq's Christian community has also complained about 
sectarian tendencies within the Ministry of Education, most 
recently in reference to hiring practices (ref A).  End note.) 
Meeting Sistani 
4. (C) Asked if he had raised the plight of the Mandeans with 
Islamic religious figures, Hillo said that he had met with 
Grand Ayatollah Sistani on three occasions and was planning 
to meet with him again in 10 days.  Hillo planned to seek 
Sistani's protection in response raise the death threats, 
which he (Hillo) attributed to Islamic extremists seeking to 
attack the Mandeans because they were not "people of the 
book" (although he did admit Christians were attacked too). 
Hillo believed that Sistani could help protect the community 
by issuing a public statement. 
GOI Indifference? 
5. (C) Hillo characterized the Mandeans' relationship with 
the GOI as one in which the government is not actively 
harming them, but rather negligent in addressing the 
community's concerns.  Hillo complained that he had had no 
success in obtaining a meeting with either PM Maliki or 
President Talabani, although Poloff noted that Mandean 
leaders have met with Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, 
Parliament Speaker Ayad Samarra'i, and Deputy Speaker Khaled 
QParliament Speaker Ayad Samarra'i, and Deputy Speaker Khaled 
Attiah over the past few months to press their case for a 
quota seat in the national elections in January.  Hillo also 
criticized President Talabani for terminating a small fund of 
$15,000 three years ago that had given to the community and 
helped to maintain the salaries of their religious figures. 
Asked whether the non-Muslim Endowment would be able to 
provide support, Hillo said that the Endowment Director, 
Abdullah al-Naufali, had told him that he could not pay 
salaries for any religious leaders whether they be Mandean, 
Christian, or Yezidi. 
6. (C) Hillo conceded that the Mandeans had received some 
benefits from the GOI, including the election of Ali 
al-Zahroon to the Mandean quota seat on the Baghdad 
BAGHDAD 00002911  002 OF 002 
Provincial Council and the appointment of a prominent Mandean 
professor, Dr. Matheel al-Sabti, to be an Iraqi ambassador. 
In fact, Hillo noted that al-Zahroon and al-Sabti donated 
part of their government salaries to the community in order 
to help sustain it.  He also said that these types of 
positions helped to boost the morale of the Mandean community 
and that the community was looking for more.  Asked about the 
their efforts to secure a quota seat in the national 
Parliament, Hillo said the copy of the draft election law he 
had received from MP Bahai al-Araji (Fadhila) who works on 
the Parliament's Legal Committee had included a seat for 
Mandeans.  (Note: A recent version of the draft law that we 
have seen does include one seat for Mandeans as well as five 
for Christians, one for Shabaks and one for Yezidis.  End 
note.)  Poloff also asked about the MOI's decision to hire 
500 minority guards for the Facility Protection Service to 
which Hillo said that 30 Mandeans had been interviewed but 
had not been officially hired yet. 
Australia and Refugees 
7. (C) BIO NOTE: Earlier this year, Hillo acquired a 
residency permit to live in Australia along with his family, 
a move that opened him to criticism from within the Mandean 
community (ref B).  Hillo said that he was currently 
splitting time between Iraq and Australia in addition to 
traveling to other countries with significant Mandean 
populations, such as Denmark and the United States.  He 
dismissed speculation that his time outside of Iraq was 
encouraging other Mandeans to leave, noting that even though 
the Chaldean Patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel Delly, had remained 
in Iraq, a large part of the Christian community had left 
anyway.  He said large numbers of Mandeans in the neighboring 
countries of Syria and Jordan wanted to return to Iraq, but 
did not feel that it was safe enough yet to do so. END BIO 


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