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Posts from the ‘Eden in Iraq’ Category

Eden in Iraq with Nature Iraq IFAM update

We received huge support for our IFAM/Nature iraq NGO project: Embroidered Wedding Blankets from the Garden of Eden. Nature Iraq’s larger work and the Eden in Iraq Project were broadcast far and wide, in newspapers and magazines and interviews. We showed videos ,had books out, and a wonderful banner of the portraits of the 5 women who participated. We are giving these women faces, names, and income.

In fact, there are only a handful of older women who are keeping the tradition vibrant. The girls are earning slowly but they have never seen the historic rugs that we were able to buy from rug dealer Khalid Al Taey. Khalid knows all of the symbols and meanings of the earlier rugs. He will be a great resource to teach younger women.

We(Jassim, Zahra Southail, Edmond Wong, my assistant Drew Lenihan, and myself) had a profound experience working at IFAM, meeting all of the other artists, supporters, volunteers and staff, as well as visitors. We felt we were at the centre of the WORLD along with everyone in it. IFAM(The International Folk Art Market) is a wonderful and necessary celebration of world culture, art, and peace.

I am contemplating a fundraiser for Eden in Iraq operating expenses for mid winter if I can get the energy. I would highlight or auction the historic rugs. We’ve been offered a big hotel and Rahim Al Haj, renown oud player, could perform. Here, he met Jassim in Santa Fe!


Here we’re all dressed up for the Procession.Im wearing the dress Wajeada(Souad’s sister in law) made for me for the Singapore exhibition in 2017.Below with Zahra and Jassim:

3 Sep 2019


30 Angry Tribal Sheiks at Emergency Conference for Restoration of the Marshes, Al Rasheed Hotel, Baghdad, October 5, 2015Meridel Rubenstein

30 Angry Tribal Sheiks at Emergency Conference for Restoration of the Marshes
Al Rasheed Hotel, Baghdad, October 5, 2015, Meridel Rubenstein


After 5 month of 125 F temperatures and withholding of the water by Isis and Turkey to keep the Euphrates and Tigris rivers flowing, people were angry. The marshes are dried out for a 2nd time.

We were invited October 5th and 6th to make a presentation at the Emergency Conference for Restoration of the Marshes in Baghdad which was organized by our partner Nature Iraq and the Development Center for Energy and Water.

In addition to 30 angry Tribal sheiks from the south, 35 NGOS, 11 internationals, and many government officials attended including representatives from the Prime Ministers Office. One of our team members from Italy, Davide Tocchetto, joined me.

We couldn’t have continued our Tier 1 Project without our appearance and networking there.  What became evident to people at the national level is that we  DO have a solution for the ever increasing local sewage problems whether there is drought or not.

We were provided security by the Prime Ministers Office who also waived our visa and transportation fees, and paid our hotel and meals.  (This is a huge relief as Davide and I need to return to Chibaish Dec. 28-January 10th with what little travel money is left.

Our new advocate in the Prime Ministers Office, Dr. Shubbar, was just recently in Singapore working on oil agreements for Singapore wells in Iraq! He knows the oil companies in Iraq and will act as the conduit to them for fundraising for us. He wants us to come back for a January Energy meeting. We will get visas now through his office so they should be quicker to obtain, one of my bigger concerns.

We also connected again with Azzam Alwash, CEO of Nature Iraq  National Office in Sulimanyah, Kurdistan. His new Program Director, Parisian Sarah Hassan, knew nothing of the Project, and now has already lined up two potential donors in Geneva and is looking for a French Umbrella for administration.

Peer and I have given two Eden in Iraq talks at the Contemporary Islamic Art Symposia and exhibition at the National Library October 9th and 17th.. Now we have excellent materials on the influence of Islamic Design in our work. Now I am adding the syncretic influence of Mesopotamian civilization and design on Islamic design. We just finished a new paper for the Cumulus Water and Environmental Design Conference in Mumbai December3-5th. Neither of us can attend but our paper will be published.

We need another year to get our designs completed, ie after our next trip and proto-types are made.  So we’re feeling cautiously optimistic that the garden may see the light of day in the next several years and that the marshes can return to health with renewed government action as a result of the conference.

10 Nov 2015

Iraq Update and Conference: Restoring Eden at NTU


Eden in Iraq

An environmental remediation and cultural project such as ours risks setbacks in a country decimated by war.  When our project first began, Iraq appeared to be undergoing a process of restoration after decades of war. Our Eden in Iraq Wastewater Garden Project has had to adjust to the many swings backwards and forwards of a conflict zone.  We are both encouraged by the progress of our project and disheartened. When we take a wide view, this moment is not really more difficult than others we’ve encountered over the past several years.

Six months after our very successful March 2014 visit to the marshes, jihadist forces(ISIS/Daesh) entered Iraq from  Northwest  Syria and now have control of the Northern source of the Euphrates River at the Mosul and Haditha dams.  Turkey’s ongoing building of the Ilisu dam is affecting water shortages of the Tigris as well.  An 8 year drought in the marshes was magnified this summer by months of record high temperatures (51c). The marshes are once again dry. Falling oil prices have drained the State of Iraq’s treasury.   So, there is little the State is doing to help.

The current situation in Southern Iraq, where the population is heavily Shi’ite, remains unthreatened, despite military and political unrest elsewhere.  The local and regional governments are functioning.  But due to lack of water, there is great damage to livestock, wildlife, and foliage. The quality of life is threatened.

Our partner Jassim Al-Asadi, Director of the Nature Iraq office in Al Chibaish, in the midst of the marsh region, is keeping our project alive in the minds of local, regional and state officials.  We prepared a requested Environmental Impact Report and preliminary designs for the Dhi Qar Governate a year ago.  The project has now moved from Regional offices to the Ministry of Water Resources(MoWR).  But with so many water problems, we will no longer wait for MoWR funding but proceed with our own fundraising in the coming months.

During this difficult time, we held a Workshop/Symposium in Singapore March 5-8, 2015.  Our entire team, from 5 different countries could work together.  Meridel and Peer received HASS CLASS funding,  for 2 days we were joined by other professionals to share publicly our project thus far and to learn about water projects initiated by the University in others parts of the world.  Images below from the conference.  You can learn more about the event here: Restoring Eden at NTU


We were able to include the concluding Complexity Conference audience for our keynote speaker and team member Dr. Sander van Der Leeuw’s presentation  “Invention and Innovation-The Long Term”.  Dr. van der Leeuw arranged his lectures for both conferences as a 2 part sequence to be attended by both groups. Then we met privately in a closed working session  for two days to continue our design, engineering and chemical analysis process. We invited Landscape architect  and Columbia University Assistant Professor Julia Watson, to join us.  Watson brought her extensive knowledge – using elemental air and water currents to enliven park spaces.  Our 3 environmental engineers,  Dr. Nelson and Tocchetto joined with Egr Jassim Al-Asadi to spend time working out very difficult hydrology and sewage questions for our site, to be continued as soon as Dr. Tocchetto can get  back into Iraq.

9 Apr 2015