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Academic & Professional Books  Habitats & Ecosystems  Wetlands

The Ghosts of Iraq's Marshes A History of Conflict, Tragedy, and Restoration

By: Steve Lonergan(Author), Jassim Al-Asadi(Author), Keith Holmes(Co-Author)
257 pages, 35 b/w photos, b/w illustrations, and b/w maps
The Ghosts of Iraq's Marshes
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  • The Ghosts of Iraq's Marshes ISBN: 9781649033253 Hardback Apr 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
Price: £40.00
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

The gripping history of the devastation and resurrection of the Marshes of Iraq, an environmental treasure of the Middle East, now a protected site

The Mesopotamian Marshes in southern Iraq, once the largest wetland system on the planet, have been inhabited for thousands of years by the Ma'dan, or Marsh Arabs, but they remain remote, isolated, and virtually unknown. In the early 1990s, the Saddam Hussein regime drained the Marshes and set out to destroy not only a critical ecosystem but a unique way of life as well. It stands as one of the greatest environmental and humanitarian disasters of the twentieth century. In the wake of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, local residents destroyed the earthen dams built to divert water from the wetlands and the Marshes were reflooded. Their future, however, is in peril.

The Ghosts of Iraq's Marshes tells the history of the creation, destruction, and revitalization of the Marshes and their inhabitants against the backdrop of the dramatic events that have convulsed Iraq in the past fifty years. It follows the life of Jassim al-Asadi, an irrigation engineer who was jailed and tortured under Saddam Hussein and who subsequently dedicated his life to the reflooding and restoration of the Marshes. He eventually contributed to the Marshes being declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Jassim is eminently relatable, and the stories of his life and other marsh dwellers are infused with pathos, tragedy, humour, and passion.

Customer Reviews


Steve Lonergan is professor emeritus in the Department of Geography, at the University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada, and former director of the Science Division at the United Nations Environment Programme. From 2006 to 2010, he led the Canadian-Iraq Marshlands Initiative, funded by the Canadian government. His books include Watershed: The Role of Fresh Water in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (with David B. Brooks, 1994).

Jassim Al-Asadi is an Iraqi engineer and environmental activist who was born in the marshes of southern Iraq. He played a pivotal role in the registration of the Marshes as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2016.

Contributing author Keith Holmes is a geospatial scientist at the Hakai Institute in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is one of the authors of The Atlas of the Iraqi Marshes, published by the Canadian-Iraq Marshlands Initiative.

By: Steve Lonergan(Author), Jassim Al-Asadi(Author), Keith Holmes(Co-Author)
257 pages, 35 b/w photos, b/w illustrations, and b/w maps
Media reviews

"The Ghosts of Iraq's Marshes is a revelation. With compelling accounts of both human and natural history, the authors paint an indelible portrait of an ecosystem that shaped a people and the cruel attempt to destroy it. At its heart is a personal story of loss and endurance, as well as a cautionary tale of all we stand to lose when water is used as a weapon."
– Brian Payton, author of The Wind Is Not a River

"This marvelous book delivers a comprehensive view of the marshes of southern Iraq: from their fabled history and contributions to world civilization, to their current challenges and possible futures. Wonderfully written, it weaves the life of Jassim al-Asadi, one of the marshes most prominent and fiercest defenders, through the compelling story of the region's turbulent recent history. Emotionally gripping, and beautifully illustrated, the book gives the reader an insider's insight into the competing politics and economic priorities which threaten the very existence of the marshes and the unique Marsh Arab culture, one of the world's oldest, totally ecologically attuned to their green watery world."
– Mark Nelson, Institute of Ecotechnics

"This remarkable book is a unique compilation that positions Jassim Al Asadi's compelling personal and heroic story as an alternative to Iraq's fractious historical record of social, environmental, and cultural injustice. Poetically framed by mythic legends and water stories, the story of the Marsh Arabs and the Mesopotamian Marshes is a guidepost for environmental renewal. Jassim Al Asadi has given so many of us hope that environmental and cultural activism will create a new Iraq and that his beloved Marshes will survive."
– Meridel Rubenstein, Eden in Iraq Wastewater Garden Project

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