The Iraqi Marshlands (Al-Ahwar)

Congratulations to all Iraqis, in particular the Iraqi people who live or used to live in the Southern Marshland. This good news is the result of the sincere efforts of many organizations and individuals who worked in different stages and times, and in a variety of capacities. To name a few; I will mention my friend Azzam Alwash who devoted his full energy to this cause, Dr. Hasan Al-Janabi who wrote and work after 2003 to revive the live in the Marshland, the members of Iraqi Civilian Aid (London), UNESCO, and also many wetland experts and environmental advocates. The UNESCO decision to list the Iraqi Marshland as a protected territory is not a privilege as many people may have interpreted. It puts a higher responsibility on the federal and local government. It puts more responsibilities on the environment activists, the local tribal leaders and landlords. The UNESCO decision calls for the protection and the preservation of this rich natural, cultural, and historical environment. And to prevent it from being wrongly exploited as a tourist attraction, or reckless oil exploration and extraction.

During spring of year 1994 , some Iraqi activists decided to have a symposium about Iraq. The Iraqi people were suffering from International Economic Embargo and from the regime’s persecution after the Gulf war. The symposium was named: “Iraq: People under Siege”. One of the organizers is my friend Muhannad Al-Eshaiker who asked me to present  the case of  the  Marshland and the campaign to drain it by Saddam’s Regime. He asked me to do so, because I was involved with the Iraqi Civilian Aid Organization (London), as their representative in US, through my brother Haj Raad Al-Najafi.  The speakers’ panel included Dr. Foad Darweesh, Dr. Elham Al-Sarraf, and myself. This opportunity gave me additional motivation to study the history and the life of the Marshland Arabs.  The symposium was held in the hall of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church on June 5, 1994.

After that; I got fascinated with the “Ahwar” marches, and developed my speech into an essay. A summary of the essay was published in the Iraq Foundation Newsletter, volume 2, issue 2, October 1994.

Attached is the original full article for your review:

The Iraqi Marshlands (Al-Ahwar)