Friday, October 15, 2010

Times of Drought

As a follow up to the post on the NYT article, here's a translation of an opinion piece I wrote last year for Badael, in Al Akhbar.

September 4, 2009

Times of drought

These are times of drought in the Fertile Crescent. The last snows have melted on the summits of Mount Lebanon and the water has evaporated into the skies. The springs have dried, and the rivers now only carry the cities’ wastewater. In the Biqa` plain, the groundwater has shrunk and has disappeared deep into the earth, away from the fellah’s pumps. Everybody is waiting for the autumn rains to revive the wilting fields. All are scared: what if next year is dry?

Three years and Syria has been suffering from drought. Three lost harvests, which forced it to import wheat after it used to export it. Turkey controls the waters of the Euphrates, and its government s always ready to fight for water. Last year, when the food crisis overlapped with the drought, hundreds of thousands of herders and farmers lost their livelihoods and fell into the poverty trap. The state was unable to help them. Here they are today, crawling towards the cities, a human wave moving from a desperate present towards an obscure future.

Iraq is still torn by the Desert Storm that is drowning the cities and the fields with dusts and sands, suffocating people and burying trees. This is the legacy of years of siege and war and occupation, which has, have turned the cradle of farming into its grave. Here too, as in Syria, the waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates are stolen, without anyone demanding them back. The latest figures show that Iraq will need to import 80% of its food needs after in was food self sufficient in the 1980s’. As for the Government, it acts as instructed by the US to build a new trade-based agricultural sector controlled by multinationals associated with the occupiers. The first military governor of Iraq, Paul Bremmer, granted these corporations monopoly over Arab food.

Meanwhile, Arab leaders and monarchs sit on their thrones, fill their stomachs, and wait for the rain. These are really times of drought.

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