Braving Iraq
Full Episode

In the 1990s, the Mesopotamian Marshes were virtually destroyed by Saddam Hussein in an attempt to eradicate the Marsh Arabs who lived there. Once the richest wildlife habitat in the Middle East, this “Garden of Eden” was reduced to mile after mile of scorched earth. But Azzam Alwash is making an extraordinary effort to return life to the green paradise he remembers from his childhood. Follow filmmakers David Johnson and Stephen Foote as they chronicle Azzam’s efforts — and navigate the inherent dangers of working in a dangerous and politically volatile region. Buy the DVD. This film premiered November 7, 2010.

  • david bogaisky

    I was most p[eased to see the program and your efforts – I thank you – with special thanks and greetings to azzam al-wash -
    I have read the ancient stories – particularly the writings of wilfred thessiger – his Marsh
    arabs which has resided opon my library shelves for many years –
    I personally had the opportunity to have to visited with the marsh arabs – last year during mid octobe, 2010; – I accompanied a small group with geoff hahn; of u.k.; – hinterland travel – and below nassariyah – en route basra – visited briefly in a small settlement – our escort saw fit to keep us away from the heart of the area because of “ali baba”.

    could you convey my e mail to assaz??

  • shahram

    In this program you called Persian Gulf, another name. Why?

  • Gerald Graham

    Congratulations to David Johnson and Stephen Foote for undertaking such a challenging and dangerous assignment, and to Dr. Azzam Alwash of Nature Iraq for his vision and foresight. In November 1993 I wrote a little piece about the plight of the Marsh Arabs ( ), and have been tracking developments in the region ever since. It is truly heartening to see a good news story come out of such a troubled country.

  • Stephanie Hughes

    Thanks so much for this wonderful program, letting the world know of the work that’s being done for our future and the future of our planet. It helps to balance to some extent the terrible news we get most of the time.

  • azra

    Hi, just so that you get it right; it is called “Persian Gulf” not that other name you called it.
    Thanks for a great program, nonetheless. Azra

  • Abdulamir Hamdani

    It is not “Persian Gulf ” ,it is Arabian Gulf, if not, it should be called Mesopotamian Gulf.

  • Rachel

    Incredible show, it was really fascinating. I had no idea that this haD happened. I posted this to Facebook. I think more people should know about what happened, the efforts being made, and how they can help.

  • Erydiam

    Indeed, No tyrant can destroy life.
    I would say “To make beautiful places come back”
    “Listen the sound of the wind, of birs calling at distance. it’s wonderful”
    Azzam Walsh is a hero of life


    Thanks Nature , I didn’t know about the Mesopotamian Marshes wonderfull job done by Azzam W. I was fascinated by the program ,I hope this effort brings back the full nature live to that striked area.

  • Barbara Aday

    I am appalled and ashamed of my ignorance in the 90’s (I am 53 now ) Did we not help these people to create a war??? Will go back and study my history. I worked for a company that made radar units for the military. I am saddened. by the fact that everyone wants to fight. Too bad they can’t fight over who can re-establish their land the quickest. I also see this here in the U.S, and other counties also… I wish we could go back to natural preservation instead of extermination.

  • irv bass

    truly wonerful, truly inspiring….

  • Paula

    Thank you Azzam Alwash for introducing me to these marshes in Iraq that I did not know existed. You are proof that there is much good in the world by your intense efforts to save this beautiful land. Thanks also to David Johnson and Stephen Foote for your assistance in this wonderful, educational program.

  • rice

    Environmentally,I see no difference between what happened in Iraq and what has happened to the Colorado River or the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys in California.

  • Apioth Mayom

    It shows the intricacies of our world and ever changing environment we live in. We appreciate your tireless efforts in bringing back the environment we thought was gone for a second.

  • gr8ful

    Very exciting to see how far the marshes have come. Thanks for the very informative video!

  • Manfred

    This was so enlightening, I can believe that a country in the middle east had Marches 2x greater than all the wetlands in the USA. What’s so mind blowing are the images and how recently this way of life existed. Thank you!

  • Nabil

    Thank you to everyone who worked on this program! very nice!

  • Nezar Rahim

    Fscinating work.Thanks to Azzam Alwash,David johnson & Stephen Foote for the excelent job they have done.I am so happy to see that life has returned to some Iraqi marshes,after being destroyed by the Iraqi tyrant.

  • Nikon D5100

    Is the trade worth it please let me know. I would get Steve Johnson.

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  • المدونة الاسلامية العربية

    How did the rise of Islam change the course of Arab history?
    How was Islam linked to other faiths?
    What do you think was the most important contribution of the Muslim Empire to the world? Why?

  • Michael Quintero

    Thanks for the video and your work. I love to Learn about history and the environment.

    I’ve been searching for a video of a zoo in the middle of the desert in the Middle East. I don’t recall where or what the name of the program was. If I could please get help. I do recall of the zoo for the fact that its location was in the desert and had some of the most rare birds in the world.

    Again if some one could please help thanks.

  • Janet

    Some years ago we saw a movie about the marsh people – a story, I believe, not a doc – in which a man walked many miles from the home in the marshes to get help for his sick wife. Is this familiar to anyone? I’d very much like to see that film again. That was the first time I’d ever heard of the marsh people; the second was when SH destroyed the area, and this is the third.

  • Glenna Will

    At the time the Iraq war began, I was working for the Society for Mesopotamian Studies. The night of the declaration, at the university, we heard an impassioned speech by an Iraqi scholar. He gave us the background of the reasons for the U.S. attack on Iraq. It began with an agreement between the two countries to establish an outlet to the sea which of course was crucial for the export of Iraqi oil. Then followed the very disturbing story of duplicity and broken promises by the United States. Put simply the U.S. wanted control of Iraq’s oil and it wanted to get rid of the modern weapons which were making Israel nervous because, apart from Iraq there was no other Middle Eastern country with such formidable weapons as those two states possessed.
    Iraq was ruled by a dictator, a Sunni but it was a wealthy nation with an excellent infrastructure and its people had a good standard of living. Even the attack on Iran was against the wishes of Saddam Husein who could obviously did not hold total power.
    Put simply, the whole Ie

  • Glenna Will

    Obviously my information on the reasons for the Gulf War and the treatment of the Marsh Arabs was not accepted by the censors

  • John Mackie

    I’d love to watch this program. But like about 70% of the other programs you advertise, it’s “not available in your area”.

    Please send me 70% fewer requests for financial support.

  • Jenoye Cole

    President Bush I would not go on to Baghdad to get Saddam during the Kuwaiti Desert Storm, probably for good reasons. But he did call upon Iraqis to rise up and overthrow their dictator and told them they would have U. S. support It turned out to be “moral support” only–which, in my opinion, was neither moral nor support. So the marshes were drained and the Marsh Arabs were slaughtered. It saddens me that this was perpetrated in the name of my country by my chief Representative and the President of my country.

  • Jenoye Roland Cole

    Dear Barbara Aday, I share many of your sentiments, even though I have been
    painfully aware of some of this history ever since my representative and Leader, the first President George Bush, called upon the Iraqi’s “to rise up and overthrow Saddam Hussein” and promised them “support.” The Marsh Arabs were among those who did exactly that, only to discover that no supplies or weapons-munitions or anything was forthcoming from the U. S. A.
    at that time. The support turned out to be have been only “moral support,” which, in my opinion was, in fact, neither “moral” nor “support.” I have had horrible guilt feelings ever since.

    The destruction of the Iraqi Marshes (greater in area than all of America’s important wetlands) paralleled the destruction of the people who lived there, both of which were tragic and a horrible travesty. I, like many in my country, have little or no extra money, and our leadership is looking like it will not lead us to making adequate plans to create new jobs and keep America prosperous and thriving as we once were. In fact, our government still subsidizes the export of our factories and good jobs. But, I feel we average Americans are in great part responsible for what happened there, through what our President did and said. I hope in the future we can somehow make a significant, though admittedly a woefully small and partial, restitution.

    I will forward these sentiments on to our new Secretary of State, John Kerry, and hope, in the future, we can at least somehow constructively help out in the restoration of the birds and wild life and the Marshes of Iraq.

  • sayyed musawi

    A Great distraction from the occupation but we must always remember that actions of Saddam Hussein as bad as this one was already known to America just as they currently know about Human Rights abuses in China. One wonders why it takes them so long to act and why specific times are convenient to reveal such destruction. One cannot help notice the political implications of such actions; just as some other endangered species program will be linked to the drones being currently used in Pakistan today. That latter violates Pakistan’s sovereignty.

  • Carmen L. Blair

    I read about this region and it’s people many years ago in an old issue of National Geographic magazine. Just after the start of U>S> invasion,I heard on news story that the water had been released from a dam to refloud this area.

  • ryan

    Glenna, I have to question your post. Saddam Hussein held total power. He waged war on Iran and Kuwait because he was a power mad tyrant. The US is guilty of complicity in supporting his regime, but the decisions he made were his and his alone. Any attempt to blame the US for his actions serves only to make excuses for a tyrant. I would hope that is not your intent.

    Iraq is not a natural state. It was artificially created by the British 90-some odd years ago. An Iraq should really not even exist. It should be three different nations made up of the three different groups(Sunni, Shia, Kurds) who make up that each nation.

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