One of Iraq’s most prominent environmental activists and a leading expert on its marsh lands, Dr Jassim Al-Asadi, has been kidnapped near the capital by an unknown group, his family have said.
His brother Nadhim told AFP that Jassim was travelling on the main road linking Baghdad to the south on Wednesday when he was taken.
“Five kilometres before the capital, two cars stopped him, and armed men in plain clothes handcuffed him and put him on to one of the vehicles, taking him to an unknown location,” he said.
“My cousin was with him,” he added. “They left him on the road.”
The motive for his kidnapping is still not known and Iraqi security forces are investigating the case.
#Iraq : Renowned environmentslist Jassim al-Asadi has been abducted by armed men, according to his family – he’s long campaigned for the preservation of the Iraqi Marshes where a culture dating back to the dawn of civilisation still survives #العراق pic.twitter.com/QaHOPcrUXD
— sebastian usher (@sebusher) February 5, 2023
Asadi who co-founded the NGO, Nature Iraq has been outspoken on the condition of the country’s famed marshlands which have completely dried up. In September, he attributed poor management by the Ministry of Water Resources which has plunged Iraq into an unprecedented water crisis.
A former engineer at Iraq’s water resources ministry, Asadi left his job to dedicate himself to saving the marshlands, which has been classified as a UNESCO Heritage Site since 2016. Referred to as “The Garden of Eden”, the natural habitat had previously dried up after they were drained on the orders of former dictator Saddam Hussein, and continues to face challenges posed by climate change, water scarcity and pollutants.
A former colleague at the ministry, Hassan Al-Janabi, has called for Asadi’s release “before it’s too late”, stating on Twitter that: “Whomever believes that there are moral or political justifications that allow the kidnapping of Jassim Al Asadi will not hesitate to commit what is worse than kidnapping”.