Saddam opens dykes to drown marsh resistance

THE Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has resorted once again to the water weapon to winkle out opponents in the south of the country. Over the past three months, he has opened dykes to flood rich farming land south-east of Al- Amarah, according to a prominent Iraqi dissident.

Wheat fields, rice paddies and fruit orchards have been deluged to a depth of up to 10 feet, Dr Hussain Shahristani of the Gulf war Victims human rights group told the Independent on a brief visit to London.

Water has proved a double- edged sword for the Iraqi leader. For nearly a year, President Saddam has sought to drive out from the Huwaiza marshes the remnants of the resistance that rose up against him in the south after the end of the Gulf war in the spring of 1991.

His main method in the past was to drain the marshes, destroying their unique centuries-old water-borne culture by diverting the waters of the River Euphrates into his ambitious drainage canal known as the Third River Project. The Huwaiza marshlands form a triangle of land linking the main centres of Al-Amarah, An-Nasiriyah, and Al-Qurna.

People who for generations had based their way of life on water were transformed into nomads in search of water.

Now President Saddam is showing that he can turn a tap on as well as off. He has diverted the waters of the River Tigris, which usually does not flood until early April, to swamp the smaller area south- east of Al-Amarah around the main centres of Al-Musharah, Al-Kahlah, and Qalat Salih to continue his campaign to purge the country of those behind the uprising in the Shia Muslim south of the country in and around Basra.

According to Dr Shahristani, tens of thousands of people have been displaced by this latest move. Schools have been abandoned, and livestock killed. Many farmers have tried to make it across to Iran, where Dr Shahristani and other aid groups provide them with limited shelter.

'This is a clear attempt at genocide against the southern Iraqis,' Dr Shahristani said, 'to punish them for the uprising of Basra.'

Most of the resistance has now moved further south to another network of marshes, at Hor al-Hammar, which cannot be drained because President Saddam's new drainage canal flows into it.

It was close by at Hor Aluwi that there were reports last autumn that Iraqi forces had used chemical weapons to suppress the resistance.

No clinical evidence has been produced to back up the hearsay and eyewitness accounts of white clouds of smoke and birds falling out of the sky. Dr Shahristani, who trained as a chemical engineer, said that the gas used by the Iraqi forces was phosgene, which is a very unstable substance that is quickly dispersed. Against the Kurds, during the Anfal extermination campaign, Iraq had used the far more toxic nerve gases sarin and Tabun, which survive far longer in the soil. As a result traces of the poisons could be found for some time after the event.

Dr Shahristani, a Shia from Kerbala, was formerly employed as chief scientific advisor to President Saddam's nuclear energy development programme. He fell out with the Iraqi leader in 1979 when he discovered that his master was bent on pursuing a programme to develop or procure nuclear weapons.

He was put away in the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad where he languished for 11 years in solitary confinement, until he escaped during the mayhem that followed the coalition assault on Iraq during the Gulf war.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - OTE £40,000

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Contracts / Sales Administrator

£19500 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Knowledge of and ability to use...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence