Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hima Fundraiser

Last night, Hima Mesopotamia had its first fundraiser at the Kiwanis Family House in Sacramento, California. Over 48 people attended the talk by Dr. Nadia Fawzi on her life and lives of Iraqi's in southern Iraq. We were particularly delighted to have a large number of Iraqi's present. I learned last night that over 2,000 refuges have been relocated in the Sacramento area. Two men from the group Mesopotamia invited me to meet with them, to come to their homes, to listen to their stories.
Dr. Nadia Fawzi, guest speaker, Basrah Marine Science Center, Basrah, Iraq

Hima Mesopotamia is about telling people's stories. It is remarkably healing for a dispossessed people to have their stories told within the context of their culture, the land they come from, and their ancestors. We started out the evening with a movie featuring Dr. Azzam Alwash, Nature Iraq, and the Marsh Arabs. My favorite part of the movie is watching a small child rolling around and hugging a large water buffalo, as we in America might have our children playing and wrestling with a family pet dog. The mashoofs or boats on the water, the mudheif or guest house constructed of reeds, the remarkably buccaulic and tranquil floating islands of reeds. A hard life and a good life. When I think of Iraq before Saddam's reign of terror, I think of people living a subsistence life style on the marshes, entertaining guests lavishly, punishing enemies with a vengeance. Iraq also had an intellectual elite, with some of the finest colleges and best educated students in the world. Ramzi told us they had a final exam of advanced calculus, physics, physical chemistry, biology, arabic and english. The top scores, of whatever background or sex, went to the best Universities. I have been told that some biologists became biolotists because they couldn't pass the test high enough to become doctors or engineers. In Iraq, there were a lot of well educated and well paid women engineers and doctors before the wars.

Its sad how a tyrant, and those who allow a tyrant power, can destroy a world. The war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980's caused a huge debt, the loss of millions of lives, destruction of the border lands along the Shat al Arab. Saddam's incursion into Kuwait coast the country a great deal of lives, riches and the bad will of the international community. After the US invaded Iraq, the country is stumbling its way toward democracy. Nadia pointed out the Democracy did not arise organically from the people, the young, the inspired. It was imposed from the top down. What does Middle Eastern Democracy look like? I don't know.

I digress. Last night Nadia Fawzi gave a wonderful talk, sharing from her own life. She said she and her husband and four children moved to Yemen with almost nothing in their pockets, and were able to obtain jobs. Then they moved to New Zealand. Now her husband is in Saudi Arabia and her children are in both countries. Moving back to Basrah must have taken a great deal of passion, conviction and courage. Now the Marine Science Center scientists are going into the marshes and talking to the marsh arabs, finding what they need, and how their lives are. After three decades of war, hope is the greatest casualty. Without water, jobs, education, viable transportation to and from communities, healthy water buffaloes, gardens, or adequate fish, life is tough. There are high rates of infant mortality and birth defects from contaminated water and inadequate hygiene and waste disposal.

We had many students, members of the communities, and Iraqi's at the talk and good dinner and desert. To me this was a basket start, a beginning of creating a network where we can listen, we can hear the stories and tell them, and we can find a way to help. One thing we can keep alive is the knowledge that a healthy ecosystem is essential to keep functional and viable for a healthy human population.

Hima sponsored talks by Dr. Nadia Fawzi at CSU Sacramento

Dr. Nadia Fawzi, Marine Science Center, Raida Fahmi, and Dr. Michelle Stevens

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Guest Nadia Fawzi and Hima Fundraiser

Next week Hima Mesopotamia is sponsoring visiting researcher Dr. Nadia al-Mudaffer Fawzi, Assistant Professor of Marine and Enviornmental Pollution, Marine Chemistry Department, Marine Science Center, University of Basrah, Iraq. The fundraiser will be Friday, September 9th, from 6:00-10:00 pm. The talk will be "The Desertification of Eden: Stories from the Marsh Arabs" and a film on the Marsh Arabs. We will serve light middle eastern food. Suggested donations: $15.00 adults, $10.00 students, children free.

The location is the Kiwanis Family House, 2875 50th ST, Sacramento, CA. For reservations email or view our web site at

Other events this week include:
* Tuesday September 6th, Geology Department Colloquium from 4:30-6:00 in Mendocino Hall, Room 1015, CSU Sacramento Campus
* Wed September 7th, Environmental Studies Department and SSIS "Marsh Arabs and the Environmental Changes in Southern Iraq Marshes", Mendocino Hall, Room 1015
*Monday Sept 12th, STEM Faculty Forumj "Impacts of Environmental Change: The Life and REalities of Iraqi Women and Children in the Mesopotamian Marshes, presented by the Center for STEM Excellence, Sequoia Hall, Room 317.

Second Symposium

Special Session 2: Restoring Mesopotamia: Socio-economic Aspects of Cultural and Ecological Restoration


The Mesopotamian Marshes are a culturalized landscape, consisting of a reciprocal relationship formed over thousands of years between Marsh Arab cultures and the marshes through both agriculture and traditional resource management. This panel will document the difficulties of those who returned to the marshes, hoping to regain their traditional lifestyle, as well as those who choose to or are forced to live in the cities. With their marsh homeland disappearing into a salt-encrusted wasteland, the Marsh Arabs are once again a people dispossessed. The Ma’dan are now becoming urban refugee squatting on lands they do not have ownership or rights to, attempting to eke out an existence with their water buffalo. Water buffalo represent both an umbrella species and a cultural icon; they are the main source of livelihood of people in the marshes, and are indicators of marsh health. Marsh Arabs face huge difficulties from loss of culture, dire health and educational situation, and loss of traditions. They are facing a very difficult situation with many of the young want to stay in the city, yet have no access to health, education, work opportunities, or the luxury of electricity or television. Because they are uneducated they are working in low wages and putting the major cities under pressure draining the already scarce resources. The fragility and vulnerability of the vast marsh ecosystem is also jeopardized by a lack of equitable riparian water rights from upstream users in the Tigris Euphrates watershed. The dislocated Marsh Arabs are environmental refugees.

Dr. Michelle Stevens and Dr. Nadia Al-Mudaffar Fawzi, Panel Moderators


Michelle Stevens. “Eco-cultural restoration baseline: Traditional Resource Management of Marsh Arabs in the Mesopotamian Marshes”. Executive Director, Hima Mesopotamia.

Khalid al-Fartosi. Presentation given by Monica Dean. “Water Buffalo: Cultural icon of Marsh Arabs and umbrella species indicating health of the marshes ” Prof. Dr. Khalid Al-Fartosi, Biology Department / College of Science, University of Thi-Qar / Iraq. E-mail:

Tova Fleming "Breaking the silence: Finding hope in Mesopotamia"

Nadir Salman. Presentation given by Michelle Stevens. “Socioeconomic Status of People Inhabiting the Southern Marshes of Iraq” Marine Science Center, Basrah University, Basrah, Iraq. Email:

Nadia Al-Mudaffar Fawzi, Kadhmia M.W. Al-Ghezzy, Luma Al-Anber - Co-Facilitator of Special Session Panel, “Marsh Arabs and the Environmental Changes in Southern Iraqi Marshes (To Return or not to Return: That is the Question)” Marine Chemistry Department,Marine Science Center, Basrah University, Basrah, Iraq. Email:

symposium 2 at SERI conference

Dr. Nadia Fawzi, Basrah Marine Science Center, Tova Fleming and Monica Dean. Merida, Mexico. August 2011.

Society of Ecological Restoration Conference

We were very successful in our two symposia at the Society of Ecological Restoration in Merida, Mexico. There were over 1,000 people attending the conference from 70 countries. Dr. Nadia Fawzi from the Basrah Marine Science Center, Tova Fleming and Monica Dean participated in the symposia. We had several cancellations due to lack of funds or ability to travel to Mexico, so we gave their presentations for the missing scientists. The first symposium was taking a watershed approach to the Tigris Euphrates watershed.

Symposium 1

Water and Peace: A holistic perspective on the ecological and cultural restoration of the Tigris Euphrates watershed.

Abstract The Tigris and Euphrates River Basin is vulnerable due to water scarcity (exacerbated by climate change), inequitable sharing of water rights, and high risk of desertification. Participants representing Turkey, Iraq and Kuwait will discuss the scarcity of water, upstream dam construction, and long term implications for sustaining ecosystem health and cultural integrity. The future trajectory appears catastrophic throughout the watershed: devastating ecological and social impacts are occurring which jeopardize regional stability. With at least 26 large dams under construction or planned in the Tigris River in Turkey, there is cause for alarm and immediate action is needed to assess cumulative impacts and to mitigate the loss of species and habitats, as well as basin-wide socioeconomic impacts. With good water years since 2003, approximately 58% of marshes had been rejuvenated, and people had returned to their lives in the marshes. Unfortunately, past water years and upstream water diversions have resulted in severe drought, and now the Mesopotamian Marshes are drying up. Water levels continue to drop; marshes recede; salinities increase; and the fish, reeds and water buffalo that embody the marshes are dying. With low flows, salinity in the Shat al Arab has increased from salinity levels of 1 ppt to 9-13 ppt. Low flows and impaired water quality is adversely affecting fish production and biodiversity in the Shat al Arab and northern Gulf. Loss of fisheries alone will have adverse impacts on local populations. An international system of basin planning and equitable allocation of water rights is urgently needed.


Michelle Stevens and Dicle Tubaq Kilic, Doga Dernegi, Turkey. “Impacts on nature and culture of dam construction in Turkey on the Tigris River Watershed”.

Nadia Fawzi and H.T. al-Saad, “Examining the Condition of Iraq’s waterways and their impact on the water quality of the north western Arabian Gulf”

Faiza al Yamani, Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research (KISR), presented by Nadia Fawzi, “Impacts of reduced flows and impaired water quality in the Shat al Arab to fish productivity, biodiversity and socio-economics in the Northern Gulf”

Nature Iraq. Movie on the Marsh Arabs and Azzam Alwash.