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Reader: Marsh Arabs Want Marshes Back

letter to the editor

I just read your web article ["Hope, Economic Transformation in Iraqi Marshlands," Nov. 28, 2007] in which Dr. Peter Reiss claims that the Marsh Arabs do not want to have the marshes restored. It is very disappointing that centers of study, such as CNES, choose to listen to self-professed experts on Iraq instead of Iraqis themselves. Dr. Reiss has been to the marshes in 2003 and early 2004 and always in brief visits. He has continuously claimed that the restoration is the wistful wish of westerners, and never acknowledges that the Iraqis themselves are the ones that broke the dykes that kept the waters way from the marshes. Why? Simply because it does not jive with his story. Pray tell, if the Marsh Arabs have adjusted to living on cows and sheep {“An economy formerly based on birding, fishing, and water buffaloes today "is being built on cows and sheep,"….}, why is it that water buffalo counts have increased from the tens to the 10,000s in Chibaish area alone? Why have 90,000 refugees come back to live around and inside the marshes?

If anybody is interested in learning about the marshes from Iraqis, they can talk to Iraqis themselves. My wife and I last visited the marshes in December 2007. I have a ton of pictures and testimony to the fact that THE MARSH ARABS WANT THE MARSHES BACK. I and my teams have conducted monthly visits to the marshes since 2003. Whose opinion is more important? I leave the answer to you and your colleagues at the center.

I would be very happy to debate this issue publicly with Dr. Peter Reiss or if he declines, I would welcome the opportunity to address the same crowd and have them listen to the Iraqi side of the story.

Respectfully,
Azzam Alwash, PhD
CEO Nature Iraq
Board of Trustees,  American University of Iraq – Sulimani

Center for Near Eastern Studies