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Witness
The Guardian of Eden
Looking at the struggle of an old Sheikh to preserve a 5,000 year old way of life.
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2010 09:04 GMT

 

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Filmmaker: Rashed Radwan

The Mesopotamian Marshlands, in Southern Iraq at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, are thought by many to be the site of the Garden of Eden.

"This area was known as the Fertile Crescent, the ancient Mesopotamia, where we all have our roots. This is where the agriculture was invented, the writing, trade and many other things that are part of our daily lives today. Trying to find out more about the people that were the ancestors of our civilizations we discovered the Marsh Arabs." Carmen Marques, the producer of The Guardian of Eden said.

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A place so rich in fish and fruits that someone in urgent need of money could come and collect food for free to put on his table or pay his debts. Nowadays this is nothing more than a memory for the tribes of Marsh Arabs who live here.

Also known as the Madaan, Marsh Arabs are among the oldest peoples on earth, with a lifestyle dating back 5,000 years.

"When we expressed our interest in filming in the Marshes we came across a problem. The tribes are very proud of their heritage, so if we decided to film with one tribe, we would have problems with the others as we wouldn't be giving them as much attention. But we couldn't film with all of them" 

"Finally when we got the permission from the tribes to go to the marshes we faced the big surprise: where was the paradise? We could see nothing more than mud, dry land and poverty. A world lost in a shocking poverty."

In 1991, after the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein began an aggressive drainage program. It was about reclaiming land but also about punishing the tribesmen who had risen up against him.

It turned much of this abundant marshland into desert, and forced some 200,000 of its inhabitants to flee, many taking refuge in Iran.

Now, thanks to the programme "Eden Again" the water and its inhabitants are returning to the Marshes. But many things have changed forever.

Filmmaker Rashed Radwan went back in time, to witness a way of life that had remained unchanged for 5,000 years and the struggle of an old Sheikh against his own son, in an attempt to preserve their Garden of Eden.

"The tension among the tribes in the marshes and the government is rising and if nothing is done to the dire situation these tribes are living in, something will go horribly wrong in southern Iraq and the Marsh Arabs will fade into history."

"This would be a great shame as after all, this is where our civilization started and therefore it is not only the responsibility of the Iraqi's to preserve this area, but a responsibility of each one of us".

Source:
Al Jazeera
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