With the water returned back eleven years ago, the hope in the Mesopotamian Marshes is back. The scenery in a small hamlet on the southern Euphrates has burned into my memory until today: In holey socks and a black cape Meryam Khale waded into the small lake next to her modest homestead, where two water buffalo leisurely cruised around. Barefoot and in tattered pants ran her youngest after her. It smelled of straw and chaff tickling in the nose. In the yard next door balanced men reed bound post in the height, spread on the floor lay the woven mats ready for Mudhif, the traditional reed house and landmark of the Iraqi marshes. Each handle sass.
Modest new beginning
Life returned back to where it once Saddam Hussein has let die of thirst. In revenge for the Shiite uprising after the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi dictator had let destroy the idyllic marshland between the Tigris and Euphrates. Meryam Khale, their neighbors and their water buffalo thereby lost their livelihoods. But shortly after the fall of despots 2003 workers angerückt with heavy construction equipment and have torn a part of the concrete dikes.
For the 29-year-old Meryam, her husband and three children there were then a difficult beginning. They all lived together in a small, dark accommodation of gray concrete. On the floor lay a few mats, in the corner stood a rickety cabinet. Next door lived the first wife of her husband, also with three children in a more concrete hut. In the yard clucking chickens. Life was difficult, says Meryam. Thanks to the water going up soon but she hoped that her family buy more buffalo and they could get to the children new clothes and that her husband earns enough to build a proper house for it.
Since then many years have come and gone. It turns on a return visit, some dreams have been fulfilled, other things have been different. Meryam has gained a few pounds, the children are neatly dressed, the youngest visited since middle school. Besides a new television it now also has a washing machine and a fridge. Almost everyone in the family has its own mobile phone. Your desire for a real house has not been met, but her husband has grown, plastered concrete walls and tiled the floors. On the ceiling and the walls in the living room light pastel colored ornaments. "Many are not, but it does not go badly for us," says Meryam.
''Everyone has a car''
But neither the water, nor the buffalo brought her family to the small prosperity. The water in the hamlet at Suq ash-Shuyukh is gone and with it the water buffalo, these protozoa of human civilization in southern Iraq. What remains are a few brackish ponds and rivulets, which collects the garbage. On top floats an oily film. Instead of the water buffalo is Meryam now has cows. "They're easier to care for," she says. The rest of the money invested her husband in a small car wash. A compressor, spraying and brushing, polishing and what else you need, has been considering. "Many now have a job with the government, and almost everyone has a new car," Maryam's husband says. Since Saddam's fall, the Shiite forces dominate in Baghdad. "Business is good," he says. So good that his three brothers participate.
Soon, standing, sitting soon the gaunt man controls the narrow wooden boat under bridges, past simple fishermen's huts, swim a few boys in the brackish water of the canal. Then she lies before us, the endless landscape of water and reeds, in between small islands with farms or mooring for the buffalo. Each homestead, each stream of water has its own name. Asadi knows them all. We are in the Central Marshes, one of the three great historic landscapes. Bible Students want the heavenly garden of Eden have located here. With a history of settlement of the 5000 years it is one of the oldest cultural landscapes in the world. Archaeologists have discovered Sumerian tablets with Mudhif representations from the 3rd millennium BC. The vocabulary of the marsh or Marsh Arabs embrace to this day about 200 words from Sumerian and Akkadian period, says Asadi. As then the Mudhifs would be built even today in northwest-southeast direction, because it can keep the heat that is oppressive in summer, best out there.
When we reach a large lake, the 57-year-old jumps into the water, throws himself on his back, looking into the blue sky and shouts: "Is not that great?" The water is only about four feet deep and warm as a bathtub . From the reeds fly fishing on Grey. Not only their history, but also the biodiversity made the swamps once famous. In the seventies, researchers counted more than 80 species of birds, including the endangered Marbled or Basrarohrsänger. Millions of migratory birds were the marshes as a resting place between Siberia and Africa.
The decline of the marshes, however, had already long been used destruction against Saddam. Through the construction of more than 30 dams and dikes at the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates, large amounts of water for agriculture uses and supply for the cities are used in central Iraq today. According to a study from 2006 were for 10,000 square kilometers of swamp land ,- two-thirds of the former area - need 20 to 30 billion cubic meters of water. In a few years, it would be half of the total amount of water which then would exist in Iraq. New dam projects in the neighboring countries dig the Iraqis literally from the water. In Turkey, the giant Southeastern Anatolia Project, which includes 22 dams along the headwaters of the Euphrates and Tigris is, nearing completion. In the west, Syria has also dammed the Euphrates, and in the east the rivers passes Iran by supplying the swampland in the border area.
Oil instead of water
But it is not only the neighboring countries that threaten Asadis restoration plans. While now the drip irrigation is common in many countries of the region, the Iraqi farmers continue to rely on the conventional ways for flooding their fields. At the same time the demand for water is growing constantly. In 2020, Iraq will need almost 95 billion cubic meters of water as it is stated in the aforementioned study. It is impossible, therefore, to save all the swamps. Around 5600 of the former 15,000 square kilometers needs to be preserved by the Iraqi government. Asadi believes that even that is too optimistic. "We need new concepts," he says. The water supply of the swamp with locks would be better regulated and the Tigris purer water are mixed with the salty Euphrates water, says the environmentalists.
Water shortage is of course not the only problem. Activists like Asadi have an even larger, more powerful enemy: the oil industry. In the south of the marshes, there are the greatest oil reserves of Iraq. With Shell cooperation is working well, the Group was committed to environmental protection projects, says Asadi. However, the state corporations from China and Malaysia, who do not care about their image in their own country, such concerns are the same. And also in the government in Baghdad there are powerful circles in which he bites his concern on granite. "
But so breathtakingly beautiful, the swamp and the traditional reed houses, heavenly life in the marshes is not. A woman controls with a long wooden stick their heavily laden barge with freshly cut reeds past us. Like a feather fluttering a lace of her black head covering the beat of her movement. On the other side men come to us in a - usual today - Motor boat with a load of water canister contrary. Whether water, food or gasoline for small generators, all the marsh dwellers have to get in the city.
A Mudhif concrete
"We are free today, yes. We are no longer envious looked at when we come to town, "said Abu Ahmed. "But otherwise, nothing has changed. We were once poor and are there today. "When Saddam dry lay the swamps, the family moved to Amara fled to the Iranian border. Some of his relatives now have a job with the government, either soldiers or police officers, and live in Nasiriya, the next big city. There, Abu Ahmed would like to also drag. "There are no schools, hospitals. There is nothing here. "
In the corner of his Mudhifs hangs an old sniper rifle, it is his greatest possession. Before the entrance of his two boys half naked romp through the mud. The smallest of his six children is still in the cradle. On a small fire pit his wife prepares tea for the guests. With fisheries, buffalo cheese and sale of reeds he deserved just $ 3,000 a year. How he used to be none of his children going to school. "If I could, I would give up this life here today rather than tomorrow." Asadi can be it but do not be discouraged. He knew people who had a job with the state and still keep water buffalo, says the son of the marshes. "It is the way of life, the tradition, the water. There can not be so simply "
Sixty kilometers away, at the starting point of our journey, Meryam Khale mourns her old life not after. Her husband's first wife is currently building a house. Together the women shoveling sand and drag induced structural material. "If your house is finished, we start with mine," she says. "We work hard. But we can ". That Mudhif that built the neighbors almost eleven years ago, has disappeared. In its place now is a nave of stone and concrete, only the entrance façade reminiscent of their decoration still at earlier times. The women like it. "The new Mudhif is great," says Meryam.
In their workshops under the sky be a car mechanic oil into the stinking broth from that still remained of the channels. This part of the marsh on the southern Euphrates has been lost Asadi.