Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Leaving on a slow camel on Friday

April 8, 2009
In 2002, there was an email advertising for a Project Manager for the Eden Again Project, which combined wetland restoration of the Mesopotamian Marshes and ethnoecology. I hadn’t really looked at it, as my dog Ollalla was dying of cancer. However, my friend Robin said to me, “Isn’t this what you do?” Well, yes, it was. So I contacted Suzie and Azzam Alwash, and began working on Eden Again Project. This experience truly changed my life. In a world out of balance with war, environmental injustice, human suffering I have had the great blessing of meeting truly great people who care deeply and make a difference. Azzam Alwash has certainly been an inspiration to me, as he started the Nature Iraq project and brought the world’s attention to the plight of the marshes. He and his wife Suzie have put big dreams for Green Villages, maintaining the hydrology of the revitalized marsh ecosystem, cleaning the water, bringing people home to their traditional lives in lives with restored dignity. Baroness Emma Nicholson of the AMAR Appeal, who for years has worked to provide shelter and refuge for the Marsh Arabs, and brought the world’s attention to their plight.
I have been working as a wetlands ecologist for over 20 years, and am very interested in indigenous cultures and the connection “healing the people, healing the land”. It had never occurred to me to work in the Middle East. Destiny intervened. I came to admire and respect Iraqi people through working on the Eden Again Project, being involved internationally, and conducting interviews with ex-patriot Iraqi’s in the San Diego area. People said how much they loved the al Ahwar marshes, wanting to see them restored and to go home to the marshes and their lives there. They spoke of the brutality of Saddam Hussein, and the genocide and ecocide conducted against them and the marshes. The women I met were well-educated, strong, vocal, responsible for their families well-being, and the health of their communities. Above all I noticed the good humor, wonderful sense of hospitality and generocity, and kindness of the Iraqi people I met.
For the past seven years, I have learned everything I can about the al Ahwar marshes and the people of the region. It was my dream to ride in a mashoof in the marshes, and hear the songs and poetry of the marshes as light glinted off the water. By Wed of next week, that dream will come true.
In January, I was invited by my colleague Dr. Hamid Ahmed and other scientists from the University of Basrah to come to the conference on the marshes in April. Friday morning I leave for Kuwait, and will arrive at o-God early o’clock in the morning. Sunday I will meet with my friend Dr. Faiza al Yamani and staff at the Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research to speak with them about my research in the marshes. Then the journey begins!! Stay tuned – to hear about the conference on rehabilitation of the marshes and the people of southern Iraq, and my personal experience in the al Ahwar marshes. Incha Allah.


  1. I'm finally set up. will read this later. See you in a bit.


  2. Curious to see if this comment posts the picture as well...

  3. Glad you made it Basrah. It wouldn't be an adventure if everything went as planned would it? Clearly Azzam, Adil, Faiza, Salman, Jassim et al made great efforts to see you through the final hurdle. I'm in your corner, sending you all the energy and will possible to carry this thing through. It's an exciting history making event, wonderful that you are a part of it, proud of you.

    How did the talk in Kuwait go? It sounds like it went well.

    Will go for now. Let me know when is a good time to call.


  4. Hey Contra Girl

    Cheers from Cheryl and Russ. Nice to hear you made it and are about to go boating in the marsh.
    Any cattails? Stay safe and may all good luck attend your experiences.