Ahmed Saleh Neema
Ahmed’s motivation for his environmental activity is due to his faith in the necessity of serving and protecting Nature.
Ahmed has been active in protecting all biodiversity connected to Iraq’s central marshes for the last decade, after he changed from being a hunter to a protector. This fight has become his full-time work, having previously been employed at the Missan University’s Faculty of Administration and Economics in the large and historic town of Amara.
The marshes were heavily drained by Saddam Hussein not only to increase agriculture but also because the Marsh Arabs, The Ma’dan, were sworn enemies of his regime. The reasons for this were largely on account of their Shiite religion which made them ally closer to Iran and saw them living separately from Iraqi society – they lived traditionally in reed-houses on artificial islands amid the waters of the marshes. Saddam’s engineers diverted almost the entire flow of the Euphrates river into a large drainage canal, known as the Third River, which was connected to the sea. The Ma’dan armed opposition to Saddam and this strategy was brutally put down in a series of tactical operations focused on the town of Amara, displacing thousands of people.
Ahmed’s conversion from hunter to protector was largely stimulated by the plight of the Maxwell’s Otter species which had become virtually extinct due to the activities of fur-trappers and the draining of the marshes. Ahmed was instrumental in the return of the otter to the marshes on a small-scale, releasing six that he raised himself. Ahmed is also actively engaged with stopping the poaching of migratory birds which he reports to the Environmental Police. He also has another focus also on restoring both rare aquatic plants and fish populations that have been heavily reduced because of the extensive drainage of the marshes.