Ecocide And Genocide In The Iraqi Marshlands
Free (open access)
J. W. Dellapenna
The Tigris and the Euphrates cross a largely arid land and empty into the Persian Gulf through the largest natural marshes in southwest Asia. From time immemorial, the marshes were a region in which a community of people made their homes, derived their livelihood, and preserved a particular local culture closely linked to the marshes. As recently as 1990, these marshes constituted healthy, ecologically rich wetlands. After the Marsh Arabs joined in the revolt against Saddam Hussein in 1991, he undertook to drain the marshes in order to bring these highly independent people under his control. The former marshes became barren, salt-encrusted land, with the Marsh Arabs living as refugees in Iran and Iraq. No attempt was made to develop the diverted water or drained lands. The destruction was an ecocide adopted as a means of genocide against the Marsh Arabs. After the fall of Saddam, the Marsh Arabs returned to the land and restored the flow of water by simply breaching the dams, dikes, and canals—with little or no attention to water quality concerns. Today about 50% of the marshes have been restored. In this paper, I examine the legal issues relating to the destruction and the restoration of the Iraqi marshes. Keywords: ecocide, genocide, international law, Iraq, occupation law, Ramsar Convention, water law, wetlands. 1 Introduction Iraq includes the bulk of what historically was called Mesopotamia—the land between the rivers (the Tigris and the Euphrates). The two rivers cross a largely arid land and have given life to that land through irrigation for more than 5,000 years. The two rivers join about 120 miles north of their discharge into the Persian Gulf to form the Shatt-al-Arab. The marshes began 50 or so miles above the joining of the rivers and once reached all the way to the Gulf. As recently as 1990, these marshes covered about 12,000 square miles, mostly in Iraq, with a
ecocide, genocide, international law, Iraq, occupation law, Ramsar Convention, water law, wetlands.