Saddam's deadly aim in the marshes

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IN THE bloody aftermath of the 1991 uprising in southern Iraq, hundreds of thousands of people fled into the marshlands which, because of their inaccessibility, provided the only viable refuge. Last month an Iraqi government engineer was captured by the resistance movement in the marshes. He was found to be carrying seven detailed maps, one of which is reproduced (left).

These maps, drawn up in March 1992, show for the first time the full extent of the regime's massive water diversification plans which are now nearing completion.

The purpose of the original project, known as the Third River, was to desalinate areas between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It began in the 1950s. The captured engineer described two recent projects. The Fourth River, officially referred to as Loyalty to the Leader Project, is the construction of a canal running from Kut to Basra. The River Banks Project involves building huge embankments to block the tributaries which flow from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers into the marshlands.

The aim of these projects is the drying out of vast areas of the marshes. This will bring the region under the full control of the Iraqi army.

Both the Marsh Arabs and those who have fled to the area are trapped by the military blockade encircling the marshes, preventing food and medicine entering the region.

The drying of the marshes constitutes an environmental disaster as well as being the death knell for the Marsh Arabs, the world's most ancient living culture. According to the Iraqi engineer, the draining of the marshes is called the 'Third Anfal' by Baghdad. 'Anfal' was the official term for the genocidal operations against the Kurds in the late 1980s.

(Map omitted)