Sunday, September 4, 2011

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:

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