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Iraq's Garden of Eden
August 6, 2010 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Restoring the Paradise that Saddam Destroyed. "Saddam Hussein drained the unique wetlands of southern Iraq as a punishment to the region's Marsh Arabs who had backed an uprising. Two decades later, one courageous US Iraqi is leading efforts to restore the marshes. Not even exploding bombs can deter him from his dream." [Via]
posted by homunculus (20 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.
posted by homunculus at 1:47 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


A not so distant cousin of mine Gavin Maxwell, author of 'Ring Of Bright Water' and a great lover of otters went to the marshes in search of a pet otter. He wrote a book about his time in the marshes. Well worth a read.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:04 PM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is fascinating, thanks for the post.
posted by Gator at 2:07 PM on August 6, 2010


Oh one interesting fact of Mars Arab life was the unique position of Lesbians. Often they kept the guest house, made coffee for guests and kept the place clean.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:09 PM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


one interesting fact of Mars Arab life

Indeed, all of the facts about Mars Arab life are interesting.
posted by theodolite at 2:17 PM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cool post! I had no idea about any of this. Thank you!
posted by small_ruminant at 2:22 PM on August 6, 2010


In 1956 Maxwell toured the reed marshes of Southern Iraq with explorer Wilfred Thesiger. Maxwell's account of their trip appears in A Reed shaken by the Wind It was hailed by the New York Times as "near perfect".
In 1964 Thesiger published Marsh Arabs. Here is an excerpt about the mustarjil.
posted by adamvasco at 2:31 PM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Marsh Arabs" sounds like something straight out of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Super interesting, thank you.
posted by Think_Long at 2:37 PM on August 6, 2010


I think there's a mistake in the article, btw: where it says "Mesopotamians settled in the fertile region in the fifth century B.C., and within a few centuries it had become the site of an advanced Sumerian civilization," I assume they meant the fifth millennium B.C., since the Sumerians were active by 5,000 B.C. but long gone by 500 B.C.
posted by homunculus at 3:30 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh one interesting fact of Mars Arab life was the unique position of Lesbians.

I had no idea there were lesbians on Mars. Amazing!

Kidding aside, thanks for sharing that, it's a fascinating detail.
posted by homunculus at 3:32 PM on August 6, 2010


This was one of the heady justifications for the Iraq war; one of the many projects we were going to inspire democracy with. Guess we forgot.
posted by clarknova at 3:34 PM on August 6, 2010


I had hoped this would be well underway by now, but like clarknova says....

I guess restoration isn't as much fun as pallets of money and shooting people.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:42 PM on August 6, 2010


Thanks for the excellent post, homunculus - and also thanks to the folks who added good info and links. It set me googling further to learn more about this project and the marsh people... it turns out that 60 minutes recently did a segment on Azzam Alwash and the marsh reclamation that has some great footage of people rebuilding homes from reeds - well worth a watch - it looks like some good progress is being made.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:50 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


From NPR:

Restoring the Marshlands of Iraq (April 2003) MP3*

New Hope for Iraq's Marsh Arabs (January 2004) MP3*
Decimated Under Saddam, Ancient Culture Starts Over

Restoring Iraqi Marshlands (August 2005) MP3*

Iraq's Marshlands Face A Second Death By Drought (March 2009) MP3

*--DL links broken, I've sent NPR a request to repair them. I was sure there was another NPR update on this from earlier this summer, but now I can't locate it.

---

CBS News: Resurrecting Eden (Nov. 2009) [ watch ]

---

A Carnegie Council symposium: The Marsh Arabs of Iraq: The Legacy of Saddam Hussein and an Agenda for Restoration and Justice
(October 2004)

---

The Eden Again project, directed by the person interviewed in the 2005 NPR story.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:53 PM on August 6, 2010


Links to more coverage from 2001-2005 from Eden Again.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:57 PM on August 6, 2010


...and "Life on the Edge of the Marshes" (Expedition, 1998, Vol. 40 Issue 2, p29, 11p) with photo scans.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:04 PM on August 6, 2010


I had no idea there were lesbians on Mars.

Why do you think Mars needs women?
posted by Rangeboy at 4:38 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Subtext: Thank goodness we went to save them!

African-American life expectancy : 67.2 years

Iraqi male life expectancy (2002): 66.31
posted by larry_darrell at 5:02 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, the United States' marshes are in peril from the oil industry, and both of our Gulfs have been subject to the #1 and #2 oil releases in the history of the world.
posted by eustatic at 7:36 PM on August 7, 2010


59 Dead, 120 Wounded in Iraqi Suicide Bombing;
Iraqi Parties reject US Power Sharing Proposal

posted by homunculus at 12:03 PM on August 17, 2010


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