Video claims to show Iraqi marsh attacks

COMPELLING new evidence has emerged of the Iraqi regime's assault on the Marsh Arabs in the south of the country. An hour- long video smuggled out of the region, which was sent to an Iraqi Shia dissident in London, shows dramatic scenes of villages of reed houses set to the torch by Iraqi troops, according to the anonymous commentator. It is the first visual evidence of what Iraqi dissidents and the United Nations special rapporteur, Max van der Stoel, have been saying: that there is a systematic policy of destroying the life in the marshes.

The marshes preserve a unique culture, which the camera captured as it passed among the reedbeds through the network of waterways. There were signs of destruction everywhere: truncated palm trees, charred reed huts, sagging electricity cables, and brick- built clinics pocked with bullet marks. Whole villages were deserted. In one, a lone water buffalo chomped forlornly.

The villages of Adil, the tribal lands of Bayt Attiya, and the area of Thilith were destroyed. According to one witness, Thilith had had a population of 3,000 until destroyed; first it was attacked by artillery, then the army moved in. On a wall on a partially destroyed building in Ramle, someone had scrawled 'Saddam bastard'.

The video then showed an area near Nasiriyah, which was still intact, but where many villagers complained of lack of food and medicines. Some said they had been attacked from the air, an assertion which would reinforce the need for a no-fly zone over the region. At Fartus, villagers said their homes had been shelled by artillery. They said they were short of tea, coffee and flour.

The commentator asked some young men punting a dug-out in the shallow channels why they were leaving. 'Nobody expelled us,' they explained. 'But we had to escape for our lives.'

Another group from the Hayshawi tribe said they were taking the women away for safety from the bombardments. One related how his neighbour's daughter had been killed by shelling which came from the direction of Silaam. A woman who gave her name as Khairiya, from the Shahalbi tribe, said shells and rockets landed continuously at night, and she wanted to escape.

It was not clear how recent the film was, although some scenes appeared to have been recorded at the end of May. In London, Iraqi opposition spokesmen held a press conference to stress that no Iraqi exile group believed that the establishment of a no-fly zone over southern Iraq would lead to fragmentation of the country into three parts: Kurdish north, Sunni Arab centre and Shia Arab south.

'The Shia not only believe in a unitary state,' explained Laith Kubba, a prominent Shia intellectual in London, 'they are the only guarantor of it.'

The Shia make up over half Iraq's population of 18 million. But they have always had minority status in a regime dominated by the Sunni elite.

He said that the reservations of Arab states about the no-fly zone had less to do with fears about the fragmentation of the state, and more to do with internal dissent from their own Shia populations.

Another dissident, Ahmad Chalabi, said he and his colleagues 'supported the idea of a no-fly zone in southern Iraq' and wished to 'dispel the idea that this represents a threat to the territorial integrity of Iraq'. He said, 'None of us wants to see Iraq fragmented. All of us want to see it united, but united under a democratic regime.'

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before