Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Finally, some good news from Iraq

I have taught ancient history for long enough that I am fascinated by the phenomenon of the Marsh Arabs of lower Iraq.

The marshlands of Mesopotamia and Egypt had a crucial role in the invention of agriculture and the rise of civilization. In regions that were drying out with the retreat of the glaciers, the fish and birds and plantlife bordering the Tigris, Euphrates and Nile rivers supported a denser human population than anywhere else in the world. It was in these regions, too, that irrigated agriculture could develop.

Right up to our own time, the Iraqi marshes have supported a style of life very similar to the marsh culture seen in early Mesopotamian art. (For some images illustrating the point, see Laputan Logic). The marshes were fertile but out of the mainstream of Iraqi life.

During the rule of Saddam Hussein, the marshes were one area where you could hide from his regime. After the revolt following the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein decided that this refuge was too dangerous to his regime and decided to destroy it by draining the marshes. A huge human and ecological disaster resulted. (This is again best illustrated by Laputan Logic.)

So where's the good news? The fall of Saddam has led to a reversal of his drainage works and the marshes, against all expectation, are reviving. The news comes from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Iraq Report (a source I have recommended before). To read about it, see this issue; the section on the marshes starts about halfway down the page.


Blogger John Hardy said...

Steve, thansk for the link.

You might also be interested in this recent article on the BBC site.

Great blog, btw. I had a little trouble subscribing to your RSS / Atom news feeds because your code seems to be pointing to an out of date URL. Looking into your HTML I found stuff like:

whereas the file is actually at:


I guess you moved you blog at some stage. Anyway, if you could fix that in your template it would make it a lot easier for people who use newsreaders and services like Bloglines to keep up with your posts.

I manage to keep track of a few dozen sites that way. If none of that makes any sense to you I can explain the steps involved.


2:33 AM  

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