A wetland in southeast Iraq, thought to be the biblical Garden of Eden and almost completely drained during Saddam Hussein’s rule, has become a UNESCO world heritage site, Iraqi authorities said on Sunday. Fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the marshlands of Mesopotamia are spawning grounds for Gulf fisheries and home to bird species such as the sacred ibis.

They also provide a resting spot for thousands of wildfowl migrating between Siberia and Africa. Saddam Hussein, who accused the region’s Marsh Arab inhabitants of treachery during the 1980-1988 war with Iran, dammed and drained the marshes in the 1990s to flush out rebels hiding in the reeds. CONTINUE