U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, speaks during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023
The United Nations Human Rights chief sounded the alarm about Iraq's looming water crisis, warning that it could soon spread to other countries in the region. Severe shortages from climate change and government mismanagement have devastated crops, killed livestock, and drained the vital waterways of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.
U.N High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk visited Baghdad, Basra, and Irbil to witness the dire situation firsthand, finding that water levels in Iraq are at their lowest ever. He called it a "window" into what is coming for other parts of the world as global warming mixes with drought, poor management, violence, and oil industry excesses.
The effects on the land are devastating; marshlands in the south have been drained almost dry, temperatures are rising rapidly, and displacement and migration due to these climate changes will only worsen. Unless something drastic is done soon to reverse this catastrophic chain of events, Iraq may be a harbinger of more dangerous times.
The U.N. Human Rights Chief roared with undisguised anger as he spoke of the persistent, chronic pollution in Basra and its catastrophic effects on the health of the community; cancer rates had skyrocketed, and countless lives were being lost to serious ailments, he said.
He blasted those behind lawsuits against journalists and activists who dared to speak out about the matter, decrying how it had crippled freedom of expression and how violence and threats had been unleashed upon environmental activists.
Türk met with the Iraqi government and judicial officials, notably Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani and Speaker Mohammed Al-Halbousi, to discuss issues like the death penalty, prison overcrowding, and strengthening human rights institutions.
To read more on Iraq's water crisis, go here: Iraq's Water Crisis is More Than a Headline, It is a Death Sentence If Something is Not Done