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