Deep in the western desert of Iraq, the village of Sahl, cut off from the world for more than a century, lies without electricity, water, or a clinic. Its residents, who do not exceed two hundred families, live a primitive life based on agriculture and grazing, and they have never seen anything from the world but a military base.
The nearest hospital is half an hour away from the village in a corner of oil-rich Iraq, and in this barren spot surrounded by rocky hills on the edge of Wadi Houran in Anbar province, there is only an elementary school and not even a barber.
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 From time to time, an old car and outdated agricultural machinery appear.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 told AFP, pointing to the barren 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 stone covered with cement. Their sheep drink from it and they carry some to their homes.
Among the houses of the village, more than 250 km from the capital, Baghdad, are small sheep-collecting pens surrounded by metal walls. While its residents rarely roam abroad. Abu Majid only went once in his life to Baghdad, about 20 years ago.
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 long hours of daily outages.
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.”
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.
To help his parents take care of their livestock, 17-year-old Mahdi left his studies at the only primary school in the village, which includes six classes that are barely enough to receive the children of Al-Sahel village.
“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 forty degrees Celsius.
“The village suffers from a lack of services,” said Qatari Kahlan Al-Obaidi, a local official in the Al-Baghdadi 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. 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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