Thursday, 20 January 2011

Azzam Alwash and the Iraqi Marshes

Saw a fascinating programme on BBC2 earlier this week - "Nature World Special - Miracle in the Marshes of Iraq".

Back in the 1980's, the marshes in the south of Iraq covered a huge area and were filled with a maze of lakes and reed banked channels. The marshes were home to large populations of fish and birds - as well as the marsh Arabs who were expert at living in this beautiful environment. 

In the early 1990's, the marsh Arabs rebelled against Saddam Hussein. In response, Saddam built embankments along the Euphrates as well as drainage canals. Together these two measures soon turned some 90% of the marshes to desert.

Azzam Alwash grew up in Iraq, and his father used to take him on boat trips in the marsh area. Azzam later left Iraq to complete his studies and start a successful engineering company. He returned to Iraq in 2003 and was shocked to see what had happened to his beloved marshes.  

Having set up a charity "Nature Iraq" with his wife, Suzie Alwash, he helped to restore the marshes, which are now returning. There are still problems - a long term drought and dams in the upper reaches of the Euphrates are preventing the annual floods from ocurring - but possible solutions to these are being developed. 

A film crew recently followed his progress, which has resulted in this programme, which was beautifully shot and explained all the issues very clearly and concisely. Azzam is clearly a very charismatic and enthusiastic individual - someone you would want on your team!

If I may switch back to BFTF mode for a moment, one thread of this blog is to promote engagement with the media - both when they get it wrong and when they get it right. This is clearly as example of the latter so I have sent some feedback back to the BBC. Somewhat annoyingly, I forgot to keep a copy of the webform, but I think it went something like this:

"I just wanted to say thank you to the BBC for the 'Natural World Special' on the southern marshes of Iraq (Tuesday 18th Jan 8pm, BBC2).
The story of Azzam Alwash was truly inspirational, The love that he and his team have for the marshes was very heartening to see. If only we could all direct as much energy as they have towards such a worthwhile cause.
Thank you also for desribing the security precautions that the team took so that I could appreciate this aspect of working in Iraq at this time.
Most imporantly, thank you telling the story of the southern marshes so clearly and comprehensively, without needing to recourse to flashy graphics or silly camera angles."

I'm sure that you have seen something good somewhere in the media recently. Why not compliment the organisation concerned - you will be encouraing them to do more stuff like that!

Find more information here: 

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Salmaan Taseer

There were some disturbing reactions to the assassination of the Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in Pakistan on 4th Jan 2013. The governor had campaigned against the abuse of the country's Blasphemy Laws which are often abused to settle scores and persecute minorities.(see also here, and here)

Taseer had been campaigning for the release of Asia Bibi who had been accused of blasphemy after an argument with a group of women while harvesting berries.

The BBC, in an article entitled "Salman Taseer: Thousands mourn Pakistan governor" commented that Taseer's funeral was attended by the Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and "thousands of supporters of the PPP". The article also commented that:

"One small religious party, the Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnat Pakistan, warned that..."No Muslim should attend the funeral or even try to pray for Salman Taseer or even express any kind of regret or sympathy over the incident"...

...It said anyone who expressed sympathy over the death of a blasphemer was also committing blasphemy....

...The Pakistani Taliban - Tehreek Taliban - also said anyone offering prayers for Mr Taseer would be guilty of blasphemy...

...Pakistan's high commissioner to London [told the BBC] that Pakistan would not allow itself to "be held hostage by a minority of [radical] religious people"."

Meanwhile, the Guardian, in an article entitled "Mainstream Pakistan religious organisations applaud killing of Salmaan Taseer" states that:

"All the big mainstream political parties strongly condemned the murder, and thousands attended funeral prayers for Taseer. However, both the large religious political parties declared that he had deserved to be killed for his views..."Salmaan Taseer was himself responsible for his killing," Munawar Hasan, the head of Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the two big religious political parties, said. "Any Muslim worth the name could not tolerate blasphemy of the Prophet, as had been proved by this incident...

The religious scholars warned that others could meet the same fate."The supporter is as equally guilty as one who committed blasphemy," the Jamaate Ahle Sunnat Pakistan statement said."

BFTF was concerned to see the support of Islamic parties for the killing and so emailed three local Imams who were part of Nottingham Jammat Ahle Sunnat asking :
"My question to you is to ask whether [the views of Jamaate Ahle Sunnat Pakistan] these are also the views of Jamaat Ahle Sunnat Nottingham?"
Update Jan 2014
Post tided up and extra background and links added.
None of the Imams answered the question, by the way.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The First Post

This is the first post on the 'Building for the Future' blog, which is the on-line presence of the Community Radio Show of the same name.