The Marsh Land Arabs: Losing their Homes and Hope

In Southern Iraq, near where the Tigris and Euphrates River join-the traditional honoured point of the Garden of Eden- live the Marsh Arabs or Ma’dan. Fifteen times agone, Marsh Arabs lived on square kilometres of aqueducts and swampland, an area as large as New Jersey. The moment only remains. The Marsh Arabs have been forced from their homes; their frugality and their terrain devastated by the governance of Saddam Hussein.

The destruction of the Marsh Arabs illustrates the capability of totalitarian governance to cover up the brutal suppression of the people under its rule. The transnational community and the media had little access to the people of Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s rule, especially to those Iraqis who lived in the remote corridors of the country. The flight of the Marsh Arabs from their land in the face of the 1991 Gulf War and the draining of the morasses in which they lived was noted, but there was a lack of political will by the transnational community to respond. Further than of the Marsh Arabs fled as deportees to Iran, but the Iranian government also limited access to them by transnational associations and the media.

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Marsh Land Arabs
Iraq 1967. Young Marsh Arab girls observing their mother building a reed hut. Prior to the destruction of the marshes. |

Therefore, only in the wake of the fall of Saddam Hussein is the plight of the Marsh Arabs garnering transnational interest. Their dilemma is complex. Maybe they could now return home safely to their former homes, but much of the watery terrain in which they lived for glories has been destroyed, maybe irreversibly.

North and west of the megacity of Basra, along both banks of the Tigris and Euphrates gutters, are the Iraqi swamplands, the largest swamp ecosystem in the Middle East. The swamplands are the niche for numerous species of waterfowl and other wildlife. The foremost societies known to humanity grew up near the morasses. This area presumably saw the first successful sweats in the world to use irrigation to grow crops and the oldest known megacity in the world, Ur, was at the edge of the morasses, near the present megacity of Nasiriyah.

The history of the present occupants of the morasses goes back thousands of times. In the wetlands created by the overflow from the two great gutters, the Marsh Arabs travelled by boat, erected assessing wimp houses and kirks, and scrabbled, raised water buffalo, and grew rice and dates for a livelihood. The Marsh Arabs’ unique culture exercised the rich terrain and predates the migration of desert-and oasis- dwelling Arabs.

The draining of the swamplands in southern Iraq coincided with Saddam Hussein’s attacks on the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. In both frequentness, the points were the same-the deliberate and methodical junking of governance resistance. The Marsh Arabs were penalized for their lack of support of Saddam’s irruption of Kuwait and severely so. Not only was their terrain devastated, which created food dearths and health heads, but the population was also subordinated to deadly chemical attacks.
By 1993, the government had completed conduits to divert much of the water in both the Tigris and Euphrates gutters and to help it from percolating into the swamplands. The putative reason for the drainage design was to produce new agrarian land, but salinization destroyed the utility of the land. At the same time, according to a Human Rights Watch report, the Iraqi government was bombarding townlets and arresting, torturing, and executing Marsh Arabs. The great maturity of people living in the swamplands had no choice but to leave their land. Knockouts of thousands of them sought safety in other regions of Iraq, but further than crossed the border into Iran. They’re still there, living in several exile camps.

The fall of Saddam Hussein doesn’t mean that the problems of the Marsh Arabs are at an end. Whether those who are displaced in Iraq or those who sought retreat in Iran will be suitable to go home is still an open question. They’ve been victims of severe suppression and the deliberate destruction of their terrain. Whether the morasses of southern Iraq can be restored is unknown. According to the rearmost fact distance on philanthropic and reconstruction backing in Iraq issued by theU.S. Agency for International Development ( Fact Distance# 47, June 9, 2003),” new satellite imagery reveals modest signs of recovery in the swamplands” due to the opening of levees and heavy rain. Factors that might hamper their restoration include the presence of large deposits of petroleum under what many times ago was a maze of aqueducts, a retreat for innumerous species of wildlife, and the home of an ancient and continuing culture.

The conditions of Marsh Arabs displaced within Iraq during the 1990s are unknown. The Brookings Institution-SAIS Project on Internal Displacement estimates that Marsh Arabs are displaced inside Iraq. Utmost is believed to have taken up hearthstone among the civic population of southern Iraq. Some Marsh Arabs may have been part of the people being transferred north to Kurdish areas as part of Saddam Hussein’s Arabization crusade, but the Brookings-SAIS report in internal relegation in Iraq doesn’t essay to estimate the figures.

About Marsh Arabs in Iran live in exile camps managed by the government of Iran. A transnational NGO, Aiding Marsh Arabs and Deportees (AMAR), helps in the camps by furnishing health care and exigency inventories. The largest contributors to AMAR have been the aid agencies of the government of the United Kingdom and the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO). The United States, through the Bureau of Population, Deportees, and Migration (PRM) of the Department of State also contributes to AMAR.

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