Sunday, November 28

Without water and electricity, and Corona did not reach it.. a village deep in the Iraqi desert cut off from the world for more than a century

Deep in the western desert of Iraq, the village of Sahl lies on the outskirts of Wadi Houran in the middle of Anbar Governorate, cut off from the world for more than a century, without electricity, water, or a clinic.

Its population, which does not exceed 200 families, lead a primitive life based on agriculture and herding, and they have never seen anything in the world but a military base.

The nearest hospital is half an hour from the village in a corner of oil-rich Iraq, and in this barren spot surrounded by rocky hills, there is only an elementary school and not even a barber.

Iraq is the second oil exporter in OPEC and generates 90% of its revenues, but corruption and crises have decimated its infrastructure and energy services.

A distant past comes to mind as you pass the winding and bumpy road to the village: scattered simple houses with iron doors, windows hidden from most of their walls, and the sight of time-shifted stone ruins. From time to time, an old car and outdated agricultural machinery appear.

To communicate with the outside world, its inhabitants are satisfied with old mobile phones, because the Internet and smart phones have not yet found their way through the desert dust.

Abu Majid, the 70-year-old prominent notable of the village, wears an Arab dress and covers his head with a white and red keffiyeh. “We live a simple primitive life,” he adds, pointing to the arid fields around him.

To supply water, people use a diesel pump to pull it from a well in the ground, and then collect it in a pond surrounded by a concrete-covered stone. Their sheep drink from it and they carry some to their homes.

“In agriculture, we depend on rainwater,” Abu Majeed adds.

Among the houses of the village, more than 250 kilometers from the capital, Baghdad, are small sheep-collecting pens surrounded by metal fences, while its residents rarely roam outside.

Abu Majid only went once in his life to Baghdad, about 20 years ago.

fly bullets

Conservative customs and traditions are still very present in this part of the Iraqi desert, as Umm Majid spoke with male visitors from behind the door of her house, to complain about the lack of medical services and electricity.

The village is not connected to the electricity network, which its residents consider a luxury, although Iraqis in general in other parts of the country suffer from interruptions for long hours daily.

Residents depend on simple and old generators for lighting and to turn on the television for only a few hours.

Umm Majid recounts, “Our children are deprived of health care and television, except for an hour or two from time to time.”

Dozens of kilometers from the village, the “Ain al-Assad” base is located, the most important Iraqi military headquarters that includes US forces in Iraq, and is subjected to missile attacks from time to time.

There is no communication between the forces in the base and the people of the village, says Abu Majid, who was born in an old village that is now part of the base.

For his part, the young shepherd Mahdi tells that “once, two of my sheep were shot dead when I was in a pasture adjacent to the base, coinciding with training at a shooting range.”

He adds with a sigh, “We only know about grazing and farming to make a living,” while others work in mining the rocks used in construction.

disease death

17-year-old Mahdi left his studies at the only primary school in the village, to help his family care for their livestock.

“We only have an elementary school, nothing else,” he says, as he wrapped his head in a black and brown keffiyeh and wore thick clothes, despite the temperature exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.

“The village suffers from a lack of services,” said Qatari Kahlan Al-Obaidi, a local official in the Al-Baghdadi sub-district, to which Al-Sahl village belongs.

At the same time, Al-Obaidi talked about the existence of projects to be carried out to secure electricity and build a water purification plant for the village. At the same time, he called on governmental and humanitarian organizations to provide support for the construction of a health center for the people of Al-Sahel village.

The absence of health services represents additional suffering for the people. Abu Majid says in this regard, “If someone falls ill, he dies, because transporting him to the nearest hospital, especially during the night, is not easy.”

And he spoke about “the death of a middle-aged man on the second of last August, due to a health crisis, on the way to the Al-Baghdadi district hospital.” The absence of any paved road connecting the village to its surroundings makes the matter even more difficult. Families are forced to transport pregnant women before their due date to a hospital in Al-Baghdadi to ensure their care before they give birth.

However, the “Covid-19” epidemic, which poses a threat to many countries of the world, did not know its way to this submerged village under the rugged terrain and harsh climate, according to Abu Majid, saying, “Corona did not reach our village, and no one from our village received the vaccine.”

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