Iraq has had and still has many environmental and human rights issues. Being in the center of all of the recent chaos, the Iraqi government has put environmental and human rights issues on the back burner. Most of the environmental problems that Iraq has is infrastructural problems. Iraq and surrounding countries are located in desert areas with no real plant life or a lot of biodiversity. Iraq has problems with water sources becoming contaminated by bombings, land mines, etc. There is also a problem with dwindling NGO’s. Since the 2003 invasion, funding has been decreasing from the government and from other foreign countries. Along with environmental issues, human rights issues are a continuing problem especially with the rise of ISIS. According to Human Rights Watch, there have been countless attacks against civilians from ISIS members and from the Iraqi government. There does not seem to be any policies or reforms in place to protect Iraqi citizens amidst all of the recent chaos.
According to National Geographic, Iraq has plenty of infrastructural problems due to aerial and naval bombardment, landmines and refugees, and many other factors. Bombings of urban infrastructure, water and sewage contamination, air pollution, ground pollution, etc. have all contributed to the poor living conditions of Iraq. Stated in a National Geographic article, ‘According to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, some 26 toxic chemicals are reported to be manufactured or stored in the region, including substances such as benzene, phenol, and sulfuric acid. The toxic chemicals, and, in the case of weapons facilities, radioactive material, released into the environment can seep into the ground contaminating ground water. When the facilities are bombed, the resulting fires can cause the chemicals to be vaporized. The resulting air pollution from smoke, dust, and debris will eventually return to the ground in the form of acid rain, increased soot fallout, and chemical contamination.’
Land mines are also creating hazards for the wildlife that exists in Iraq and for children, as well, “The country is littered with land mines and unexploded ordnance of all sizes and types, and will, predictably, kill and injure children and wildlife for years to come,” said McCally. “In all the years I’ve been consulting in the Middle East, I can’t recall the environment ever being on the agenda,” said Lee. “It’s not held to be as much of a priority. If you mention it, they say ‘Oh yes, the environment, we care,’ but that’s about as far as it goes. The only issue they do talk about is climate change, which they consider a western conspiracy to deprive them of income.”
NGO’s were a way for Iraq to contribute to the improvement of the environment, but since the 2003 war and recent conflicts, funds inside and outside of the country have continued to decrease. According to Institute for War and Peace Reporting, “Funding has been steadily eroding over the past three years, with the increased violence in Iraq signaling to international donors that Iraq is not stable and that investment there may be lost,” said Azzam Alwash, chief executive officer of Nature Iraq, an Italian-funded NGO that works to revive the environment. Iraq has tried to deal with environmental issues with NGO’s and other policies, but if it is not seen as a huge priority, then there will be less and less action taken to help it.
Human rights are also a constant, growing problem that does not seem to have any real policies fighting human rights violations. There are plenty of international organizations that are dedicated to helping civilians in the Middle East, but as for the Iraqi government, their main priority right now is ISIS and defeating them. They will worry about the environment and human rights after this chaos is over, or at least stable.