Conflict & Justice

Working to Save the Iraqi Marshes


Azzam Alwash is working to save the Mesopotamian marshes. (Photo:

After the US-led invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, there were many stories of Iraqis around the globe wanting to go back home to help rebuild their country. One of them was Azzam Alwash.

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He left Iraq in 1978 and settled in the United States. In 2003, Alwash went back. He wanted to restore the Mesopotamian Marshes, a formerly rich wetland habitat in southern Iraq about the size of Connecticut.

Alwash grew up near the marshes and used to accompany his father, a government water engineer, on trips there. In the 1990s, Saddam had the wetlands drained, in retaliation for a rebellion in the south. When he read about it, Alwash was stunned.

He says it was like draining the Florida Everglades except that the Iraqi marshes are twice as big.