Report. The marshes of Mesopotamia, a paradise that evaporates

In Iraq, the cradle of humanity is shrinking visibly. Under the influence of global warming and erratic policies, the Chibayich marshes, listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, are drying up. The German weekly “Der Spiegel” takes us there by boat with Jassim Al-Asadi, Iraq’s best-known nature defender.

Jassim Al-Asadi stands at the front of a wooden boat like the figurehead of a galleon, staring into the distance, into the wind. The boat glides gently through the marshes of Chibayish in southern Iraq. Water buffalo wade near traditional houses made of artfully woven reeds, and the orange and blue plumage of a kingfisher gleams in the sun.

At 66, Jassim Al-Asadi is Iraq’s best-known conservationist. It was here, in the marshes, that he was born: “I came into the world prematurely, while my mother was gathering reeds for the water buffalo,” he says. “A buffalo”, he says, as soon as one of these animals shows itself. He never stops joking, greeting people who pass by in a boat or stand in front of their house, at the water’s edge.

The swamps are his country, his passion – and his misfortune. A year ago, the activist narrowly survived a kidnapping, was tortured and had to be treated in hospital.

Because this paradise is deceptive. The Mesopotamian marshes, where some researchers like to locate the Garden of Eden, cradle of more than 60 species of fish and some 160 species of birds, are in serious danger of drying up. Powerful interests, water management conflicts, corruption and the climate crisis threaten them. Jassim Al-Asadi is fighting to save this paradise, as he did in 2003, after the American invasion, while the war was raging.

Environmental activists arrested and harassed

The day before this departure

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Article source

Der Spiegel (Hamburg)

A great, great investigative magazine, launched in 1947, aggressively independent, and which has revealed several political scandals. Since its creation, the Spiegel chose the line of investigative journalism. It is the most widely distributed German news magazine.

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