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?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent