Northern Iraq aims to clear entire region of landmines

The regional government recently cleared landmines from 13 plots of agricultural land near Sulaimaniyah. [Saad Shalash / Reuters]

The regional government recently cleared landmines from 13 plots of agricultural land near Sulaimaniyah. [Saad Shalash / Reuters]

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The Kurdish region observed the United Nations' International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on April 4th in an effort to get the international community to further help clear the region's nearly seven million landmines.

In recognition of the worldwide annual event, the General Directorate of Mine Action in Sulaimaniyah carried out a number of activities in the Sharbazher area east of Sulaimaniyah city, including mine clearing demonstrations and mine awareness programs.

"The objective is to draw the attention of the international community so it can help us clear the minefields in the Kurdistan region," said Haji Masifi, director general of mine action in Sulaimaniyah.

"Hundreds of thousands of mines were cleared in the Kurdistan region," Masifi told Mawtani. "However, our plan is to clear all the minefields that cover almost 250 square kilometers."

"Most of the minefields are located within Sulaimaniyah province, especially the Iraq-Iran border areas," he added.

The General Directorate of Mine Action also handed over 13 plots of agricultural land in Sharbazher to their owners after they had been cleared of mines.

The directorate reported that the owners were happy to regain use of their land after more than 25 years, and said they hoped the directorate would clear all the minefields in the Kurdish region.

According to directorate statistics, about 20 million mines were planted throughout Iraq over the past several decades, of which seven million were planted in the Kurdish region. As of today, statistics suggest that 83% of those mines still remain.

Many of the region's minefields date back to the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s and military actions of the former regime in 1990-1991. Some landmines even date back to conflicts in the 1960s.

In an effort to resolve the landmine issue, the Iraqi government signed in August 2007 the Ottawa Treaty, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty, which bans the use, storage, manufacture and transportation of anti-personnel mines. The agreement was enforced in February 2008.

The treaty stipulates that all anti-personnel mines must be destroyed within a period of four years, and all minefields be cleared within 10 years.

A number of international organizations, including the Mines Advisory Group, Norwegian People's Aid and the United Nations Office for Project Services, have been conducting mine-clearing activities in the Kurdish region since 1991

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  • READER COMMENTS

    بهنام صادقی

    2014-2-13

    I would like to extend my appreciation to the Iraqi government for its efforts in clearing the minefields. I have worked in this field in Iran for many years. I am interested to help my Iraqi friends.

  • ali safari

    2012-11-27

    Mines are hidden enemies lurking for human being until the moment of action. The service of those who work in this field is a service provided to God’s creatures. I have about 18 years of experience working as a “mine-neutralizer”. I have worked on clearing [the mine-fields] and fighting this enemy of human being [i.e. landmine]. My appreciation and thanks go to those who have worked in this field. Especially since the process of clearing [the mine-fields] in borders and inside Iranian territories is nearly over. I salute Mr. Haji Musaifi, the President of the Iraqi Kurdistan’s Land-mine Clearing Office. And I express my readiness to help and to cooperate in clearing mine-fields in Iraqi Kurdistan region, according to all legal procedures.

  • عبيد صديق

    2011-8-8

    The mines and their spread is a very bad situation, and has caused a lot of disasters, a lot of disabilities and victims, especially in northern Iraq, these many regions in which the land mines are buried. Saddam was a reason for their being planted and spreading everywhere and on many roads that are still present till now, as a result of the war or as a result of the disputes with the Kurds at that time. Now, the government in the Kurdistan region and the central government should cooperate and carry out continuous campaigns so as to find and remove all these land mines that are present in our lovely north that is living now in a state of development and advancement, so as to be one of the most beautiful touristic regions in the Middle East. But the most beautiful touristic places should not be filled with mines that may explode at any moment. Therefore, there should be specialized squads from inside Iraq or outside it that come to find and remove all these mines and to dispose of them, in order to clean the lands, the regions, the roads and the farms from them. They were filled with piles and large numbers of explosives and land mines, and the time has come to get rid of them, of course, to save the lives of the people.

  • موسى الحسيني

    2011-8-7

    The danger of mines is one of the greatest dangers that pose threat to people. Many wars leave behind many dangers after they are over, including the spread of land mines in vast areas, which ultimately lead to causing great harm to many innocent people through the injuries they cause to many civilians. They claim many of their lives or cause permanent disabilities to many others. Therefore, I believe it is necessary to work on removing the mines from the northern area and on making this area a safe part of Iraq. I believe it is necessary for the entities concerned with this issue to conduct national campaigns to remove these mines and get rid of them, in order to make our beloved north a safer area, after getting rid of the threat of these mines for good, for our people in the north to live more safely.

  • وائل جليل

    2011-7-25

    The poor Iraqis have been victim of wars and landmines and those who did not die because of the explosions of mines, were disabled. They lost some of their body parts and became a burden on society, due to their inability to work. That is why it is important to hold the largest possible number of campaigns in order to remove the mines from the northern part of Iraq.

  • روؤف فتح الله

    2011-5-21

    First of all I want to thank the officials of the Government of Iraqi Kurdistan and all the local and foreign organizations which have participated in removing a great number of land mines which were left over from previous wars and buried in the soil of the province. These have harmed many innocent Iraqis in the northern areas, causing death, loss of limbs and permanent disfigurement. Many have become wards of the state because of their inability to work and provide for their families' welfare.

  • يونس حافظ

    2011-5-20

    In the days of the former regime, Iraq suffered a lot because it waged wars with other countries, and everyone knows about the war with Iran, which lasted for eight years and consumed the Iraqis. Some Iraqis were captured and some were killed and remained unidentified, while the fate of others was unknown. The north was one of the largest areas riddled with mines, and it is dangerous and threatens the lives of citizens. Many of the Iraqis have lost parts of their bodies because of these dangerous mines. But now, by the grace of God Almighty, the officials in the Kurdish region have worked on demining the area, which were a major threat to the lives of Iraqi citizens. We thank them and pray to God Almighty to guide them to complete this heroic work. I hope that the next steps will be much better. We also thank the local and foreign organizations because they have contributed in this very important issue, which endangers the lives of the Iraqi citizens.

  • قنديل ابراهيم

    2011-5-9

    I extend my thanks and appreciation to all the officials in the Kurdistan Region and to the local and foreign organizations that have successfully removed many of the land mines that littered the northern region, and which caused the death of many innocent citizens, or inflicted serious injuries on them that maimed some of them. So, our thanks go out to all those who have participated in this task and braved the dangers and the hardships in order to preserve the lives of innocent people among the residents of the Kurdish region, and spared them the dangers posed by these mines, which were the cause of anxiety for many citizens.

  • يونس خطاب

    2011-5-8

    I extend my thanks and appreciation to all the officials in the Kurdistan Region and to the local and foreign organizations that have successfully removed many of the land mines that littered the northern region, and which caused the death of many innocent citizens, or inflicted serious injuries on them that maimed some of them. So, our thanks go out to all those who have participated in this task and braved the dangers and the hardships in order to preserve the lives of innocent people among the residents of the Kurdish region, and spared them the dangers posed by these mines, which were the cause of anxiety for many citizens.

  • سلمان علي طريف

    2011-5-5

    Praise God that we have gotten rid of the nightmare of land mines, as previously this used to be the most fearsome issue that had been bothering the residents of the northern provinces of Iraq. This is due to the corrupt Ba’athist regime that used to lay mines along all the roads, cities and villages, and on the borders of the provinces in northern Iraq. All these mines have caused many innocent people to be maimed by the explosion of these mines when they happen to pass over them, and some have lost their lives. However, praise God that now many of these mines have been removed, and the credit goes to the officials and the government in the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, and also to many humanitarian organizations that have contributed in clearing many of these mines. I pray that these programs will continue, God willing, until we clear our lands of all these Saddam mines. All our gratitude, love, appreciation and thanks go out to the security forces in al-Anbar, because each and every one of them is an Iraqi lion and a hero that is defending his lands and his dignity with honor, trust and sincerity. I salute you, proud heroes! You are the wall that is protecting the nation, and you are the cause of its stability and the improved security in al-Anbar, after these lowlife dogs of the terrorist organization of al-Qaeda were causing so much trouble. The heroic security forces have lately been able to dismantle this terrorist cell that was planning to murder innocent people in al-Anbar. But, praise and thanks be to God for ridding us of these heretics, and we are indebted to the security forces and to our security leadership that are laying out the strategies and tracking down all the terrorist cells that want to carry out those crimes. I thank the Iraqi government, which has provided all kinds of support to the security forces and equipped them with everything they need in terms of weapons and training, in order to be able to arrest these criminals.

  • ظاهر قيس

    2011-5-4

    Northern Iraq was one of the biggest areas that were filled with landmines and the most affected as a result of the harm that happened, which leads to the death of many people from the northern region or losing one of their limbs. Therefore, I would like to offer my deep thanks to everyone who has contributed to this event from the officials in the northern Kurdish region, and to all local and foreign organizations and everyone who helped in removing the largest possible number of these mines that were found in the northern region. This way, they managed to free the people of the northern region from the most dangerous thing they were suffering from, and which they were not able to get rid of, as a result of the presence of these mines that were found and in large numbers. They cannot be removed easily, but with the help of the officials and the local and foreign organizations, this great disaster that concerned the Iraqi citizen, especially those living in the northern Kurdish region and who have lost many of their relatives as a result of these dangerous mines, was eliminated. The situation is far better now than it was previously, and it has becomes possible for the people of the northern region to wander freely without fear or a concern about the presence of a mine that may explode and end their lives, as they deserve all the best and everything good.

  • نافع سالم

    2011-4-26

    Dear brothers, it is important to eliminate mines from all over Iraq and not only from the north, because mines are widespread in the south, especially near the borders. In fact, every time we have lost a child, it is because of these mines. Thus, I ask the officials to fear God and to think of the Iraqi children.

  • باسم

    2011-4-15

    20 million mines all over Iraq!! There is no power except with God the Almighty.

  • علي مصطفى

    2011-4-8

    We bless all the efforts by which the land of Iraq was cleared from north to south from the danger of mines and unexploded ordnance and all the weapons that were left from the wars. Iraq is now clear of these dangers that harm Iraq and the Iraqis equally. In addition to their role in killing people or causing them to lose their limbs, the wheel of progress has stopped and the Iraqi people have suffered terribly. When will the Iraqis get rid of the mines? Note: The picture that is published in this article is of the clearing of a battlefield, not a minefield, and the ground-penetrating radar Schonstedt is for locating and discovering buried mines.