‘Water is life’: unexpected rainfall revives Iraq’s historic marshlands

This time last year, most of Iraq’s historic marshlands were dry, desiccated by upstream damming and a chronic lack of rainfall.

Now, local farmers are counting their blessings after unexpected heavy rainfall at the end of 2018 caused the dams to overflow by early January and water came gushing back to the wetlands in southeastern Iraq.

 

The marshes, thought to be the Garden of Eden and named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2016, are experiencing their highest water levels since they were reclaimed in 2003.

Saddam Hussein accused the area’s inhabitants, the Marsh Arabs, of treachery during the 1980-1988 war with Iran and later drained the marshes – which before then had stretched across more than 3,700 square miles (9,583 sq km) – to flush out rebels.

Many residents fled, but after Saddam’s overthrow in 2003, parts of the marshland were reflooded and around 250,000 Marsh Arabs have cautiously trickled back.

 

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