the end of eden
The Mandean people hold strongly to tradition. A ancient religion and a minority in Iraq, they hold John the Baptist in high regard, and seek to emulate him through daily baptisms and his simple choice of clothing.
Decades ago, the Mandeans were still numerous in Iraq, but after Iraq's wars with Iran and the United States, many of them fled. The remaining few, tasked with upholding their traditions, are struggling to keep the faith.
The Shatt al Arab (the resulting river after the Tigris and Euphrates come together) is polluted, sometimes too much to baptize. They have no designated land on the river from which to practice, something that community leaders are fighting to change. Extreme heat and dust storms have grown steadily worse, making it harder each year to maintain their traditions.
Yet at least once a year, for the Mandean New Year, prior to locking themselves in their homes for a cleansing period, the Mandeans of Basra gather on the Shatt al Arab and baptize together.
Photographed for Harpers Magazine