First Published: 2016-07-18

Iraq marshlands named UNESCO world heritage site
Area named is made up of seven sites: three archaeological sites and four wetland marsh areas in southern Iraq.
Middle East Online

the Iraqi Marshlands are unique

GENEVA - UNESCO has named Iraqi marshlands once ravaged by dictator Saddam Hussein as a World Heritage Site, a bright spot for a country where jihadists have repeatedly sought to wipe out history.

The area named "is made up of seven sites: three archaeological sites and four wetland marsh areas in southern Iraq," UNESCO said.

"The archaeological cities of Uruk and Ur and the Tell Eridu archaeological site form part of the remains of the Sumerian cities and settlements that developed in southern Mesopotamia between the 4th and the 3rd millennium BCE," it said.

"The Ahwar of Southern Iraq -- also known as the Iraqi Marshlands -- are unique, as one of the world's largest inland delta systems, in an extremely hot and arid environment," UNESCO said.

Iraq has been seeking World Heritage status for the marshes since 2003, and its government hailed the move.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi congratulated the Iraqi people on UNESCO's decision, and thanked "all those who contributed to this success."

Abadi also said that culture in the country will continue "despite the destruction and demolition of Iraqi heritage and antiquities by barbaric terrorist gangs."

He was referring to Islamic State group's destruction of artefacts at the Mosul museum and the ancient cities of Nimrud and Hatra, the latter of which is a World Heritage Site.

IS has sought to couch the destruction in religious terms, saying it was targeting idols, but that has not stopped it from selling artefacts to fund its operations.

The marshlands once stretched across some 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 square miles), but they were devastated after Saddam ordered them drained in the 1990s to stop them being used as hideouts by Shiite guerrillas opposed to his regime.

Many dams and canals ordered built by the dictator have now been demolished, allowing waters from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to flood back, fish and fowl to return and humans to settle once again.

But dams farther upriver in Syria and Turkey still limit the flow of water into the marshes, and high levels of salinity have also been a problem in the south, killing fish and making the water undrinkable.

 

UN Security Council to vote Tuesday on Syria sanctions

Erdogan ‘not welcome’ to campaign in Austria

Israel bombs Gaza after rocket attack

Egypt lawmaker says expulsion warning to opposition

Film on Syria's White Helmets wins Academy Award

Iraqi civilians flee west Mosul hardship

Netanyahu on defensive ahead of Gaza war report

Turkey begins biggest trial yet of coup suspects

Turkey wants part in Raqa recapture

Israel begins evacuating West Bank settler homes

Fateh al-Sham Front head says Syria opposition leaders must 'step aside'

Saudi Arabia is Changing

Libya PM to visit Moscow seeking better ties

Conditions in Libya driving migration to Europe

Is Jordan signalling a shift in its Syria strategy?

11 killed in Syria regime raids

Israeli checkpoint guards shoot Palestinian woman

Saudi Aramco to invest $7 billion in Malaysia oil refinery

Referendum set to be tight race for Turkey’s Erdogan

Cyber attacks in Gulf countries on the rise

Iraqi forces reach key Mosul bridge

UN urges negotiating Syria rivals to avoid insults

EU border agency says migrant rescues encourage traffickers

Israeli officials brace for Gaza war report

Key Egyptian legislator says poverty more dangerous than terrorism

UN chief says disregard for rights 'spreading'

GCC geopolitics spike military sales at IDEX

ISIS has brought Saudi Arabia and the United States closer

Ailing Bouteflika 'doing well' despite health scare

Morocco to withdraw from Western Sahara tension zone

Iraq forces look to build floating bridge in Mosul

Shia leadership struggle ahead after Khamenei and Sistani

The huge risks of Trump’s call to ‘take’ Iraqi oil

Trump set to zero in on Hezbollah in bid to curb Iran

Time bomb of unemployment among Arab youth

Push on IS capital Raqqa gathers momentum

Woman journalist says targeted by hardliners in Sudan

Iran's Ahmadinejad writes open letter to Trump

Iran's Rouhani to run for re-election

Kurdish reporter killed while covering Mosul battle

Libya govt secures ceasefire after Tripoli clashes

Boosting presidental powers will 'stabilise' Turkey, says PM

Saudi Foreign Minister in landmark visit to Iraq

Iraqi forces push deeper into west Mosul

Suicide attacks kill 42 in Syria's Homs