After Saddam, Building Amarah - 12.29.2008

VIDEO - Iraq, Amarah - Deep in the southeast of Iraq along the border with Iran lies the Governorate of Maysan. Approximately 800,000 Iraqis live there, most followers of the Shi’ite Islamic sect. During the war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s Maysan province was the site of some of the biggest battle fields.

Because of the high Shi’ite population and their relation to Iran, the regime of Saddam Hussein viewed the people of Maysan as a threat. Saddam had the Ahwar, or marshlands, a major food source and the crux of many local livelihoods, completely drained. In addition, much of the local population was forcefully relocated to other areas of Iraq.

Most of the people in Maysan live in the capital of Amarah. The city’s infrastructure is especially poor, receiving negligible care and attention during the reign of Saddam Hussein, who viewed it as vengeance for the Shi’ite uprisings following the first Gulf War in 1991.

The conditions in Amarah did not improve after the invasion in 2003 as the citizens suffered a lack of proper water infrastructure. British forces were in control of the city in the early days, and much of the city was besieged with regular bombings, kidnappings and other acts of violence. Though many citizens of Amarah turned out and participated in large public demonstrations, because of the security situation, the city’s local council was unable to accomplish any social work or infrastructure repair.

By 2005, Maysan’s district councils began to accomplish some improvements. Working in tandem with the Sadr Movement and the Iraqi National Guard, the councils distributed plans for various reconstruction projects throughout Maysan. Factional conflict broke out briefly between members of the Mahdi Army and the Iraqi National Guard in early 2006 forcing a temporary suspension of the reconstruction projects, however it was quickly resolved and the community services councils were able to return to work again.

Since 2007 the security situation in Maysan has largely improved. With a dramatically reduced threat of violence, the local services organizations and community services councils are able to rebuild much of Ammarah’s infrastructure, including large road and bridge reconstruction projects.

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