“Iraq has three suns”—50 degree heat

By Sameer Ibrahim and Michael Seifert
Hot days in Germany? Not for Sameer Ibrahim, who came to Germany from Iraq seven years ago: “When I went to work this morning, I had to put on a jacket, it was so cold. And in the afternoon 35 degrees in the shade, that’s perfect weather for me. It only gets bad above 40 degrees.”
Southern Iraq and the capital Baghdad, his old home, are currently experiencing highs of 45 to 48 degrees, with maximum temperatures of 51 degrees expected again, as in recent years. Sameer’s sister said on the phone: “We are going to die of heat.” But Iraqis have also coined proverbs about the heat with humour such as: “We have three suns, today her two daughters are with her too.” Or, “Iraqis say, God, send us to paradise right away because we have already experienced hell.” Sameer himself remembers the heat months in his youth: “There I always said: If it is cold in the dustbin, I will sleep in the dustbin. We always look for a place where it is cool.”
Sameer has vivid examples of how these temperatures play out: “You can fry eggs without a cooker, just put the eggs in a pot or pan with some oil outside in the sun. After a few minutes they are ready. The soldiers do it that way.” He has observed plastic traffic lights melting or the asphalt of the roads becoming liquid.
The great rivers Euphrates and Tigris, on whose banks the early ancient civilisations were built, are drying up: “They are disappearing day by day, there is no more water. In videos you can see people playing football in what used to be the river,” Sameer reports. The drought is also having a massive impact on agriculture. According to the responsible ministry, only half of the land is cultivated compared to 2017.
And the heat is also causing social tensions. Sameer: “The weather plays a big role in our mood. When it’s hot, people get nervous and aggressive.” He says this is especially true in the big cities, where the heat has a greater impact because people live so close together, as in Baghdad with eight million people.
And in July and August there are always protests, which the government is afraid of, because: “The government also lies about the weather. When it’s hot, we need electricity for the air conditioners. Since 2003, the government has been promising this electricity. But again and again there are power cuts.” As German media reported, energy ministers have already had to resign because of this, and even the entire government in 2019.
Sameer has also read that Iraqi scientists predict that by 2050 it will no longer be possible to live in Iraq, neither humans nor their animals.

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Seit Jahren ist es in Bagdad außergewöhnlich heiß. Foto: tünews INTERNATIONAL / Lubna Salam.

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