Iraq: coping with violence and striving to earn a living

March 31, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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In a variety of different ways, the ICRC has been helping Iraqi individuals and communities to be self-sufficient economically. This is an update on ICRC activities carried out in Iraq since the beginning of the year.

30-03-2010  Operational update  

The beginning of 2010 was marred by acts of violence that claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians, mainly in Baghdad, the central governorates and Najaf. In Mosul, families fled violence and sought refuge in safer areas. Although recent violence-related displacement has been sporadic, there remain some 2.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq who had to leave their homes over recent years in search of safety.Many Iraqis, especially those worst affected by the effects of the conflict and the ongoing violence, such as displaced, elderly and disabled people and women heading households, continued to struggle to feed their families. Their inability to buy enough of the essential goods they require remains a major concern.

Agriculture, formerly an important part of the economy, has been declining for the past decade. Individuals who have lost agricultural machinery to damage, age or disrepair often cannot replace it owing to a lack of financial wherewithal. In addition, the water supply has been hard hit by a failure to properly maintain pumping stations and irrigation and distribution canals, by the unreliable electricity supply and by higher fuel costs. The massive increase in the price of seed and fertilizer, and cheap imports from neighbouring countries, also play a role in making farming difficult, if not impossible, in many parts of Iraq. Many farmers try to survive by cultivating smaller patches of land, but as they are forced to use low-quality supplies the result is often poor harvests. Others have migrated to cities in search of other ways of earning a living.

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The New ‘Forgotten’ War – Iraq occupation falls into media shadows

March 16, 2010 at 9:21 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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The New ‘Forgotten’ War

by Dahr Jamail
March 15th, 2010 | Extra! The Magazine of FAIR

Iraq occupation falls into media shadows


The Western world that slaughtered Iraq and Iraqis, through 13 years of sanctions and seven years of occupation, is now turning its back on the victims. What has remained of Iraq is still being devastated by bombings, assassinations, corruption, millions of evictions and continued infrastructure destruction. Yet the world that caused all this is trying to draw a rosy picture of the situation in Iraq.”

-Maki Al-Nazzal, Iraqi political analyst

As Afghanistan has taken center stage in U.S. corporate media, with President Barack Obama announcing two major escalations of the war in recent months, the U.S. occupation of Iraq has fallen into the media shadows.

But while U.S. forces have begun to slowly pull back in Iraq, approximately 130,000 American troops and 114,000 private contractors still remain in the country (Congressional Research Service, 12/14/09)-along with an embassy the size of Vatican City. Upwards of 400 Iraqi civilians still die in a typical month (Iraq Body Count, 12/31/09), and fallout from the occupation that is now responsible, by some estimates, for 1 million Iraqi deaths (Extra!, 1/2/08) continues to severely impact Iraqis in ways that go uncovered by the U.S. press.

From early on in the occupation of Iraq, one of the most pressing concerns for Iraqis-besides ending the occupation and a desperate need for security-has been basic infrastructure. The average home in Iraq today, over six and a half years into the occupation, operates on less than six hours of electricity per day (AP, 9/7/09). “A water shortage described as the most critical since the earliest days of Iraq’s civilization is threatening to leave up to 2 million people in the south of the country without electricity and almost as many without drinking water,” the Guardian (8/26/09) reported; waterborne diseases and dysentery are rampant. The ongoing lack of power and clean drinking water has even led Iraqis to take to the streets in Baghdad (AP, 10/11/09), chanting, “No water, no electricity in the country of oil and the two rivers.”

Devastation wrought by the occupation, coupled with rampant corruption among the Western contractors awarded the contracts to rebuild Iraq’s demolished infrastructure, are to blame (International Herald Tribune, 7/6/09). Ali Ghalib Baban, Iraq’s minister of planning, said late last year (International Herald Tribune, 11/21/09) that the billions of dollars the U.S. has spent on so-called reconstruction contracts in Iraq has had no discernible impact. “Maybe they spent it,” he said, “but Iraq doesn’t feel it.”

Last January, the Los Angeles Times ran a story (1/26/09) that highlighted the lack of electricity: “As elections near, people say it’s hard to have faith in leaders when they don’t even have electricity,” was the subhead. But most other large U.S. papers have avoided the topic-unless it is brought up in such a way as to blame Iraqis for the problem, as the New York Times (11/21/09) did with its piece, “U.S. Fears Iraqis Will Not Keep Up Rebuilt Projects.”

Further complicating matters, a drought that is now over four years old plagues most of Iraq. In the country’s north, lack of water has forced more than 100,000 people to abandon their homes since 2005, with 36,000 more on the verge of leaving (AP, 10/13/09).

Corporate media coverage of the ongoing Iraqi refugee crisis-the U.N. estimates that more than 4.5 million Iraqis in all have been displaced from their homes (, 1/09)-continues to be scant. The stories that do appear tend to be local stories about Iraqi refugees in the newspaper’s home city (e.g., Chicago Tribune, 10/25/09).

For Iraqis who remain in the country, another critical story is cancer. The U.S. and British militaries used more than 1,700 tons of depleted uranium in Iraq in the 2003 invasion (Jane’s Defence News, 4/2/04)-on top of 320 tons used in the 1991 Gulf War (Inter Press Service, 3/25/03). Literally every local person I’ve ever spoken with in Iraq during my nine months of reporting there knows someone who either suffers from or has died of cancer.

The lead paragraph of an article by Jalal Ghazi, for New America Media (1/6/10), is blunt:

Forget about oil, occupation, terrorism or even Al-Qaeda. The real hazard for Iraqis these days is cancer. Cancer is spreading like wildfire in Iraq. Thousands of infants are being born with deformities. Doctors say they are struggling to cope with the rise of cancer and birth defects, especially in cities subjected to heavy American and British bombardment.

Ghazi reported that in Fallujah, which bore the brunt of two massive U.S. military operations in 2004, as many as 25 percent of newborn infants have serious physical abnormalities. Cancer rates in Babil, an area south of Baghdad, have risen from 500 cases in 2004 to more than 9,000 in 2009. Dr. Jawad al-Ali, the director of the Oncology Center in Basra, told Al Jazeera English (10/12/09) that there were 1,885 cases of cancer in all of 2005; between 1,250 and 1,500 patients visit his center every month now.

Babies born to U.S. veterans of the 1991 war are showing birth defects very similar to affected Iraqi babies (Sunday Herald, 3/30/03), and many U.S. soldiers are now referring to Gulf War Syndrome 2, alleging they have developed cancer because of exposure to depleted uranium in Iraq (New America Media, 1/6/10).

How has this ongoing story been covered by the corporate media? It hasn’t, at least not in the last five years, with the exception of an article in Vanity Fair (2/05) and a few isolated Associated Press stories, like “Sickened Iraq Vets Cite Depleted Uranium” (8/13/06). While smaller publications like the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (11/05) and the Public Record (10/19/09) have taken it on, none of the other big outlets have touched the story.

While U.S. newspapers have been following the lead-up to the Iraq elections, there has been virtually no coverage of the mass arrests Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s government is busy conducting in predominantly Sunni areas of Iraq. As the Iraqi daily Azzaman (1/4/10) reported:

Iraqi security forces have launched a wide campaign in Sunni Muslim-dominated neighborhoods of Baghdad and towns and cities to the north and west of the capital…. The campaign is said to be the widest by the government in years and has led to an exodus of people to the Kurdish north.

Family members of those being arrested are not told where their loved ones are being held, only that those arrested will remain behind bars until after the elections. These sweeps have collected members of the formerly U.S.-backed Awakening Councils, Sunni militias once paid off by the U.S. to stop their attacks on occupation forces. The cutoff of U.S. support for the Councils is another underreported story.

Meanwhile, the hardship for Iraqis continues unabated, along with the need to find alternative sources for accurate information-or any information-about an occupation that continues to involve as many troops as when Iraq dominated U.S. headlines in 2004 (Congressional Research Service, 7/2/09).

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has been reporting about the U.S. occupation of Iraq for more than six years. His most recent book is The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.‘forgotten-war

Turkey, Iraq launch new term with new partnership model in region

September 19, 2009 at 10:07 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Ahmet Davutoglu and Hoshyar Zebari

Turkey, Iraq launch new term with new partnership model in region

Turkish and Iraqi ministers held a series of meetings during Turkey-Iraq High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council in Istanbul.
World Bulletin / News Desk

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Friday they lauched a new term with a new partnership model with Iraq in the region, behaving as one state, Turkish media said.

Continue Reading Turkey, Iraq launch new term with new partnership model in region…

Idle Iraqi Date Farms Show Decline of Economy

August 17, 2009 at 7:18 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Idle Iraqi Date Farms Show Decline of Economy

NY Times August 15 2009

Published: August 14, 2009
BAGHDAD — Late July and early August is date harvesting season in Iraq, when within the span of a few weeks the desert sun turns hard green spheres into tender, golden brown fruit prized for its sweetness.

Joseph Sywenkyj for The New York Times

An Iraqi worker collected dates at a Baghdad orchard on Friday. Date farming faces hard times.

In July, an Iraqi worker shook sand off dates not yet ripe for harvesting at an orchard in Baghdad. The war and other factors have depressed date production.

But here in Iraq, one of the places where agriculture was developed more than 7,000 years ago, there are increasing doubts about whether it makes much sense to grow dates — or much of anything for that matter.

As recently as the 1980s, Iraq was self-sufficient in producing wheat, rice, fruits, vegetables, and sheep and poultry products. Its industrial sector exported textiles and leather goods, including purses and shoes, as well as steel and cement. But wars, sanctions, poor management, international competition and disinvestment have left each industry a shadow of its former self.

Slowly, Iraq’s economy has become based almost entirely on imports and a single commodity.

“Ninety-five percent of the government’s revenues come from oil,” said Ghazi al-Kenan, an Iraqi economist. “And while they are trying to attract investment in the private sector, Iraq finds itself in very difficult circumstances — without sufficient electricity, machinery and a drought.”

The agricultural industry has been particularly damaged during the past few years, a situation perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the country’s once bountiful date orchards. Date palms have been left to die for lack of water, and fungi and pests have ruined thousands of tons of fruit because the country has only three crop-dusting airplanes and three qualified pilots. American military approval is still needed to fly.

Even the wealthiest and most influential date farmers are struggling. Faraoun Ahmed Hussain, the 62-year-old scion of a date-growing family who serves as the head of the government agency that oversees Iraq’s date production, said his family’s 62 acres in south Baghdad have been producing at the lowest level in memory.

“I could put more money into it, but the situation does not encourage it,” he said. “Under normal circumstances, the owner of such property would be a very wealthy man.”

Iraq, which once produced three-quarters of the world’s dates and grew 629 different varieties, is now an also-ran, falling behind Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Last year, the country produced 281,000 tons, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, about half the level of the mid-1980s.

The number of Iraq’s date palms has fallen, too, to fewer than nine million from 33 million in the 1950s, according to the government. Likewise, the number of date processing factories is down to six today, from 150 before the American-led invasion in 2003. Iraqi dates are now packaged in the United Arab Emirates — 865 miles away.

Iraqi and American officials say the declining fortunes in date production and other seasonal agricultural work have fed the insurgency with desperate, out-of-work young men.

The decline, Iraqi government officials say, has also led to both public health and environmental degradation. As growers have abandoned farms, the orchards that had once formed a lush green ring around Baghdad have shrunk, causing more frequent sandstorms in the capital this summer and higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Still, dates remain a staple in Iraq, valued for their ability to stay fresh without refrigeration, as a source of nutrition, and for uses as varied as making alcohol and desserts and feeding farm animals. They are also an inexpensive sugar substitute.

As the head of a partnership that includes his 12 brothers and 6 sisters, Dr. Hussain is the master of a once prosperous, now unkempt orchard on the banks of the Tigris River in the Dora neighborhood. On a blazing hot summer morning recently, he gave a tour. The story of the orchard, which his family has owned since 1910, has been one of slow decline.

Because the amount of money he receives for his crop from the Trade Ministry — the agency that buys most farm products in Iraq — is sometimes less than the cost of production, he says he no longer invests much in the farm.

Each year, even the most productive trees provide less. In normal times, each palm might produce 130 to 175 pounds of fruit a year.

Last year, each tree produced just about 30 pounds. This season, Dr. Hussain is hoping to rebound to 90 pounds per tree.

Many of the orchard’s 4,000 palms, which can live 120 years, are clearly unhealthy. A fair number have either brown fronds or a white fungus that resembles cobwebs.

Half of the orchard is irrigated by well water, the other half by the Tigris. But because of a drought, now in its second year, farmers have been ordered to limit irrigation to twice a month instead of once or twice a week.

Fruit trees — orange, grapefruit and pomegranate — planted beneath the palms, look to be nearly dying of thirst. The ground is bone dry and dusty.

Even some of the palms, which need very little water, are withering. Water salinity has also become a vexing problem.

Dr. Hussain pointed to some of the healthier palms.

“These trees are 40 years old, and I have some emotion, some love for them, because I planted them,” he said. “I’ve watched them grow.”

Even here, there are signs of Iraq’s war: Accompanying Dr. Hussain are five bodyguards, at least one of whom is armed.

And stationed at the edge of Dr. Hussain’s orchard is a 50-member Kurdish pesh merga military unit. They are protecting the home of Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s president, who is Kurdish and lives across the river from the orchard.

Continue Reading Idle Iraqi Date Farms Show Decline of Economy…

Iraq Drought Cuts Harvest, Boosts Imports as Oil Cash Slips

August 9, 2009 at 9:18 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Iraq Drought Cuts Harvest, Boosts Imports as Oil Cash Slips


By Anthony DiPaola and Caroline Alexander


Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) — Iraq may have its worst harvest in a decade this year as an extended drought cuts its water supply, forcing the third-biggest OPEC producer to increase grain imports as oil revenue drops.


Continue Reading Iraq Drought Cuts Harvest, Boosts Imports as Oil Cash Slips…

Iraq in throes of environmental catastrophe, experts say

July 31, 2009 at 10:01 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Iraq in throes of environmental catastrophe, experts say

By Liz Sly


Karim Kadim / Associated Press
Iraqis cover their faces during one of Baghdad’s increasingly frequent dust storms. Officials say decades of war and mismanagement, compounded by two years of drought, are wreaking havoc on the ecosystem.

Now-frequent dust storms are just one sign of the man-made damage that has taken the country from Middle East breadbasket to dust bowl, they say.


July 30, 2009

Reporting from Baghdad — You wake up in the morning to find your nostrils clogged. Houses and trees have vanished beneath a choking brown smog. A hot wind blasts fine particles through doors and windows, coating everything in sight and imparting an eerie orange glow.

Dust storms are a routine experience in Iraq, but lately they’ve become a whole lot more common.

“Now it seems we have dust storms nearly every day,” said Raed Hussein, 31, an antiques dealer who had to rush his 5-year-old son to a hospital during a recent squall because the boy couldn’t breathe. “We suffer from lack of electricity, we suffer from explosions, and now we are suffering even more because of this terrible dust.

“It must be a punishment from God,” he added, offering a view widely held among Iraqis seeking to explain their apocalyptic weather of late. “I think God is angry with the deeds of the Iraqi people.”

The reality is probably scarier. Iraq is in the throes of what some officials are calling an environmental catastrophe, and the increased frequency of dust storms is only the most visible manifestation.

Decades of war and mismanagement, compounded by two years of drought, are wreaking havoc on Iraq’s ecosystem, drying up riverbeds and marshes, turning arable land into desert, killing trees and plants, and generally transforming what was once the region’s most fertile area into a wasteland.

Falling agricultural production means that Iraq, once a food exporter, will this year have to import nearly 80% of its food, spending money that is urgently needed for reconstruction projects.

“We’re talking about something that’s making the breadbasket of Iraq look like the Dust Bowl of Oklahoma in the early part of the 20th century,” said Adam L. Silverman, a social scientist with the U.S. military who served south of Baghdad in 2008.

So fragile has the environment become that even the slightest wind whips up a pall of dust that lingers for days.

Sandstorms are a naturally occurring phenomenon across the region, but the accumulation of dust on the surface of Iraq’s dried-out land has exacerbated the problem, leading to more frequent and longer-lasting storms, said Army Lt. Col. Marvin Treu, chief of the U.S. military’s Staff Weather Office.

This summer and last have seen more than twice as many dusty days as the previous four, he said. And 35% of the time, dust is reducing visibility to less than three miles, the point at which it is normally considered unsafe to fly. On many of those days, visibility was zero, delaying flights, disrupting military operations and sending thousands of people to hospitals with breathing problems.

“The lack of available water is a huge issue and it’s having a huge effect on Iraqi society,” said Silverman, social science advisor for strategic communications with the Army’s Human Terrain System, a program that links social scientists and anthropologists with combat brigades. He emphasized that he was not speaking on behalf of the military.

It’s a dramatic turnaround for the country where agriculture reputedly was born thousands of years ago. Iraq’s ancient name, Mesopotamia, means “Land Between the Rivers,” and though about half the country traditionally has been desert, the fertile plains watered by the mighty Tigris and Euphrates rivers once provided food for much of the Middle East.

Now the Agriculture Ministry estimates that 90% of the land is either desert or suffering from severe desertification, and that the remaining arable land is being eroded at the rate of 5% a year, said Fadhil Faraji, director-general of the ministry’s Department for Combating Desertification.

“Severe desertification is like cancer in a human being,” he said. “When the land loses its vegetation cover, it’s very hard to get it back. You have to deal with it meter by meter.”

It’s difficult to know where to begin to untangle the complex web of factors that have conspired to push Iraq to this point. But officials say human error is primarily to blame.

It hasn’t been scientifically proved that tank movements in the desert have helped stir up the dust, as many Iraqi experts believe. But other factors are not in dispute.

In the quest to bolster food production, farmers have been encouraged by the government to till marginal land. When it fails, they abandon it, leaving it cleared of its natural vegetation.

Chronic electricity shortfalls also have played a role. People chop down trees for firewood, leaving more bare land, and the shortage of power has made it difficult to pump water through the irrigation channels that had sustained fertile lands far beyond the rivers. Compounding the already dire shortages, power stations have been forced to shut down for days at a time because they lack water.

Then came the regionwide drought that has dramatically depleted the amount of water available. Last year’s rainfall was 80% below normal; this year only half as much rain fell as usual.

Turkey and Syria, which control the headwaters of the Euphrates, have curtailed the river’s flow by half to deal with their own drought-related problems, said Awn Abdullah, head of the National Center for Water Resources Management.

Water has been diverted from the Tigris to keep the Euphrates flowing, causing problems for communities along that river. Iran, too, has been building dams on tributaries of rivers that reach into Iraq, drying out riverbeds in the east of the country.

The effects extend far beyond the immediate inconveniences of dust storms. Drinking water is scarce in many areas of the south as seawater leaches into the depleted rivers. The fabled marshes of southern Iraq, drained by Saddam Hussein and then re-flooded after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, are drying up, and the traditional Marsh Arabs who depend on them for their livelihood are being forced to leave again.

In the cities, rural migrants compete with the urban poor for scarce jobs and resources, and in desperation some turn to crime or insurgency.

And then there are the dust storms, which bring the crisis of the countryside directly into the living rooms of city dwellers. The falling dust has the consistency of talcum powder, and it finds its way into cupboards and corners as well as nostrils and lungs.

“It causes health problems, it disrupts business, it destroys machinery, not to mention the psychological effects,” said Ibrahim Jawad Sherif, who is in charge of soil monitoring at the Environment Ministry. “It’s a catastrophe that’s affecting every aspect of Iraqi life.”

Fixing the problem would require a huge injection of funds and is beyond the capacity of the Iraqi government alone, Environment Minister Narmin Othman said. The country needs international aid to revitalize agriculture and plant trees, she said, as well as help in negotiating water-sharing treaties with Turkey and Syria, which previous governments neglected to do.

Whether it can be resolved is another question, said a Western official involved with efforts to rejuvenate Iraqi agriculture, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The government has other priorities, he said, and “it’s a question whether they care. . . . It needs such monstrous help, over such a long-term period. You’re talking generations.”,0,6963143,ful

Iraq hit by worst sandstorms in decades

July 6, 2009 at 7:19 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Iraq hit by worst sandstorms in decades
Posted on : 2009-07-05  



Baghdad – The weather in Baghdad has been biblical of late. Great walls of sand, driven by scorching hot winds, have crashed against the walls and windows of the city, delaying historic business deals, waylaying diplomatic visits, even interfering with the city’s power supply. Iraqis on the streets of the capital lean into the wind, squint, and cover their faces with scarves or surgical masks as they battle the gritty gale. On Sunday the mercury has climbed to 43 degrees Celsius, and meteorologists forecast no relief in the next 24 hours at least. On Saturday, the sandstorms obliged US Vice President Joe Biden to cancel a planned visit to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous region (Biden telephoned to send his regrets and promised to visit again, Iraqi state television reported). 

Last week, a sandstorm delayed bidding on eight Iraqi oil and gas fields – the first such bids since the fall of Saddam Hussein – because flights could not land.

The country, parched by two years of drought, has not seen such a punishing wave of sandstorms in decades, government scientists say.


The Ministry of Agriculture and local authorities are urging citizens to combat desertification. Shepherds are being asked to minimize the damage their animals do by grazing on desert plants, particularly around urban areas, to help keep the dust anchored by roots.


“The dust storms will continue through the summer,” Fadel al-Firaji, director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s anti-desertification department, told the German Press Agency dpa.


“The bedouin in the desert, the stripping of the land’s natural vegetation, and the planting of grain crops in an arbitrary and ill-advised manner are to blame,” he said.


“Since the 1991 (Gulf War), military vehicles have been moving through desert areas,” he added. “This removed the packed, solid surface layer of the desert and exposed the land to wind erosion, which in turn damaged the shrubs in the desert.


The problem worsened after the tragic events of the 2003 (invasion of the Iraq).”

The storms almost completely halted the electrical supply to Baghdad last week.


“The storms have hurt the production of electrical power because the dust clogs the massive filters used to filter out air coming in to fuel gas powerplants,” Iraqi Minister of Electricity Karim Wahid said. “We have had to shut down the plants to clean or change the filters.”


“We usually clean these filters once a year, but lately the weather has made this maintenance more urgent. The cleaning requires hours of work and obliges us to stop the power plants from 9:00 am. to 7:00 pm,” he said.


The higher temperatures and the dust have also sent residents rushing to hospital, Mohammed Bahadli, a 35-year-old doctor said.


“The relentless storms have clogged the hospitals with tons of people suffering from chest and respiratory diseases and asthma. The corridors have been packed with hundreds of coughing, gasping patients. Many have died,” he said.


To counter the problem, vendors are doing a brisk business in surgical masks, now available in a variety of colours and sizes for 250 Iraqi dinars (21 US cents) a piece. They are particularly popular with civil-servants, professionals, and anyone who must work in an outdoor market.


Indoors, ordinary families face a daily, losing battle to keep their houses clean.

“Since the storms started more than a week ago, I haven’t been doing much else but clearing off the dust blanketing all the furniture, even the bed,” Faiza Sabri, a 43-year-old government clerk, told dpa.


“And since there’s no electricity, we can’t run the air conditioner, which would at least help filter out some of the dust,” she said. “We are left with no choice but to open the windows sometimes, just to let in a little air.”


Outdoors, despite all the money being spent on planting trees along Baghdad’s streets and public squares, and reconstructing buildings destroyed during the March 2003 “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign, the city looks drab and dusty.


When the storms finally subside, Baghdad residents, who have faced invasion, lethal bombings, a collapse in such basic services as power and water, will now face the daunting task of sweeping up the desert sands the punishing winds have driven into their city.


The desertification of Iraq: a terrible tragedy

June 20, 2009 at 6:02 am | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Bloomsday Edition
June 16, 2009

Iraq‘s Looming Peril

A Plague of Snakes



Snakes are attacking people and cattle in southern Iraq as the Euphrates and Tigris rivers dry up and the reptiles lose their natural habitat among the reed beds.

“People are terrified and are leaving their homes,” says Jabar Mustafa, a medical administrator, who works in a hospital in the southern province of Dhi Qar. “We knew these snakes before, but now they are coming in huge numbers. They are attacking buffalo and cattle as well as people.” Doctors in the area say six people have been killed and 13 poisoned.

In Chabaysh, a town on the Euphrates close to the southern marshland of Hawr al-Hammar, farmers have set up an overnight operations room to prevent the snakes attacking their cattle.

“We have been surprised in recent days by the unprecedented number of snakes that have fled their habitat because of the dryness and heat,” Wissam al-Assadi, one of the town’s vets said. “We saw some on roads, near houses and cowsheds. Farmers have come to us for vaccines, but we don’t have any.”

The plague of snakes is the latest result of an unprecedented fall in the level of the water in the Euphrates and the Tigris, the two great rivers which for thousands of years have made life possible in the sun-baked plains of Mesopotamia, the very name of which means “between the rivers” in Greek. The rivers that made Iraq’s dry soil so fertile are drying up because the supply of water, which once flowed south into Iraq from Turkey, Syria and Iran, is now held back by dams and used for irrigation. On the Euphrates alone, Turkey has five large dams upriver from Iraq, and Syria has two.

The diversion of water from the rivers has already destroyed a large swathe of Iraqi agriculture and the result of Iraq being starved of water may be as great a disaster for modern Iraq as the overtaxing and collapse of Mesopotamian irrigation systems in the early Islamic period, under the Abbassids. Already the advance of the desert has led to frequent dust storms in Baghdad which close the airport. Yet this dramatic climatic change has attracted little attention outside Iraq, overshadowed by the violence following the US-led invasion in 2003 and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Continue Reading The desertification of Iraq: a terrible tragedy…

Iraq marshes face grave new threat

February 24, 2009 at 7:01 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Iraq marshes face grave new threat

By Jim Muir
BBC News, Baghdad


Life in the marshes is based on water buffalo and sustainable hunting




Iraq’s southern marshes, by far the Middle East’s most important wetlands, are under threat again.

At stake is a unique ecosystem that for millennia has sustained a vibrant and diverse wildlife, as well as the extraordinary way of life evolved by the Marsh Arabs.

Partially drained by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s to drive out rebels, the marshlands were revived after his overthrow in 2003.

Now they are shrinking again, thanks to a combination of drought, intensive dam construction and irrigation schemes upstream on the Tigris, Euphrates and other river systems.

Continue Reading Iraq marshes face grave new threat…

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