Archive for April 2013
April 29, 2013, National Geographic Newswatch
As temperatures in Southern Iraq approached 52 degrees Celsius (126°F) last July, Habib Salman, a 52-year-old farmer in the Al-Islah township, shot himself in the head, leaving behind an eleven-member family.
The stream on which their farm relied had recently dried up, jeopardizing his family’s survival. “We lost water, next farming, and next the household supplies, and then it was very hard for us to put food on the table,” says Rakla Abboud, Habib’s wife.
Now, she relies on a few cows and the support of her husband’s brothers to feed herself and her children. Leaving the barren land around her home is not an option, she says.
April 24, 2013, National Geographic Newswatch
“To finish off all living things, that the four-legged creatures of Sakkan should lay no more dung on the ground, that the marshes should be so dry as to be full of cracks and have no new seed, that sickly-headed reeds should grow in the reed-beds, that they should be covered by a stinking morass…”
Those lines are from The Lament for Sumer and Ur, written in the 21st century BC as the Sumerian capital city of Ur was falling to an Elamite invasion from the east. Sumerians had inhabited lower Mesopotamia for more than two millennia at that point. Just a century before, a golden age in Sumerian history — the Third Dynasty of Ur — had begun.
April 16, 2013, National Geographic Newswatch
Jassim Al-Asadi knows the Central Marsh of Southern Iraq better than most.
The director of Nature Iraq’s Chibayish branch was born in these vast wetlands at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, in a traditional Marsh Arab boat.
His birth came two months early in the summer of 1957, surprising his mother, who had been out gathering reeds when her water broke.
“When I opened my eyes, I opened them to see blue sky, the water, the plants, I heard the birds, and I saw the snakes,” recalls Al-Asadi, smiling at the thought. His mother laid him on the reeds she had been collecting, and took him home.
April 11, 2013, National Geographic Newswatch
This spring, National Geographic Young Explorer Julia Harte is traveling along the Tigris River from Southern Iraq to Southeastern Turkey, documenting ancient sites and modern communities along the river before they are transformed by the Ilısu Dam, an 11 billion-cubic-meter hydroelectric dam that will generate 2 percent of Turkey’s power.
Few places illustrate the vitality of water more starkly than Southern Iraq.
The region that gave rise to human civilization as we know it, the heartland of ancient Mesopotamia, the original referent of the Garden of Eden – Iraq’s lower third has been many things, but today it is the site of a wrenching ecological and human struggle.