Iran’s landmines: ‘Kids get blown up while playing’

The shoes worn by a young landmine victim. Photo by our Observer. 
 
Iran is one of the countries in the world with the most unexploded landmines and they kill and maim dozens of people every year. Many of these are leftovers from the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988); others were planted by the Iranian government to fight armed groups and traffickers.
 
According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, there were 46 deaths and 76 injuries from landmines in Iran in 2012 (no figures are available for 2013). Seven of the casualties were children.
 
Landmines litter the 11,000 kilometre-long western border that Iran shares with Iraq. The worst-hit province is Kurdistan, which, due to conflict with local armed groups in the 1980s and early 1990s, is still rife with explosives.
 
Many landmine researchers believe that the Iranian government is still using landmines today, in order to combat traffickers of drugs and counterfeit goods. Iran has not explicitly admitted to doing so, but in 2008, when explaining to the United Nations why it would not sign a treaty to ban landmines, it argued that the treaty did not take into account “legitimate military requirements of many countries, particularly those with long land borders, for the use of [antipersonnel landmines] in defending their territories.” Earlier this year, three hikers lost their lives to landmines in two separate incidents in the Lut desert. Researchers believe these were planted recently, since they were found along a known drug-trafficking route, in an area where no landmines had been found before.

This young boy lost his foot in a landmine explosion. Photo by our Observer.
Contributors

“They can pop up anywhere, like in empty lots behind houses where kids go to play”

IranWithoutMind (an online pseudonym) is an activist who writes an anonymous blog dedicated to the problem of landmines in Iranian Kurdistan.
 
During the conflict against armed groups, landmines were placed on the outskirts of cities and villages. Because they were not quickly cleared, wind, rain, and landslides have caused them to move, making it even harder to find them now. They can pop up anywhere, like in empty lots behind houses where kids go to play. A few years ago, a mine exploded in a school yard. Kids pick them up out of curiosity, since they have no idea what they are. And in some areas that have officially been cleared of landmines, they sometimes still explode because the cleanup has not been done properly.
 
Dana, a young victim of a landmine explosion.
 
I have met with injured children and documented their stories. A young boy named Gashin had gone out to play ball when he stepped on a landmine and lost his leg. Another boy named Dana had gone out for a stroll in an area that nobody knew there were still landmines in. He also lost a leg. Layla and Ghazal went for a walk and were killed.
 
Ala, a young girl who was injured by a landmine while playing outside.
 
“If only the government would ask for help from international organizations, they could help with the cleanup”
 
There is little support for these victims. Victims under the age of 16 are given compensation to cover the costs of prosthetic limbs, which is not the case for adults. But this isn’t enough – families still have to pay for travel to medical centres, and for lodgings while they’re there. Afterward, in order to receive a disability pension, the authorities must review their cases to determine their level of disability. But this process can take a long time. And when they do receive a pension, it’s usually quite little, for example 400,000 rial [about 11 euro] a month for a child with a severed leg. In some cases, this barely covers the cost of the medicines they need to take. And then, of course, there’s the psychological toll. Because of a lack of resources in these remote areas, children who are severely disabled are forced to stay at home and become isolated from their peers.
 
A rock marks the spot where a landmine exploded, injuring a young girl named Geshin. To the right of the photograph is a village road. 
 
The authorities need to carry out more precise clearing of contaminated areas, and in parallel raise awareness about the dangers of landmines among the region’s inhabitants. If only the government would ask for help from international organizations… But it won’t even sign the Ottawa Treaty [the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, which 161 countries have signed].
 
A mine sweeper.Many of the victims, like this man, are minesweepers.
 
A poster by the Iranian Red Cross, distributed in Iranian Kurdistan. It is written in both Persian and Kurdish. 
 
The spot where a landmine exploded in Dehloran, western Iran. 
 
Geshin lost her leg to a landmine. 

Comments

One can certainly sympathise

One can certainly sympathise with these people. However, I must admit that I feel that your blogger has an exaggerated view of the ability of international organisations to help with this problem.

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