A Mine Detection Dog and handler in Farqan, Kirkuk.
"MAG staff are angels and they came to my village to save me," said Kezhan Shukor.
Kezhan and her family live in Farqan, a small village a few miles from the former ‘green line’, the military boundary that separated northern and central Iraq.
Located just south east of Kirkuk [see map, left], Farqan was at the centre of much fighting between the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi military during the Kurdish uprising of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Military positions were built around the village to stop the Peshmerga attacking the nearby Kirkuk oil fields and cement factory. Minefields were then laid around these positions to protect them from attack.
As the conflict escalated, Farqan was almost destroyed, its population forced to flee to the nearby city of Chamchamal. >>>
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Years later, after the end of the conflict in 2003 brought relative peace back to the area, Farqan's population returned and began trying to rebuild their village, and make use of the land for farming and grazing. They soon found that the huge amount of landmines that had been laid close by posed a significant, daily threat to the lives of shepherds and farmers.
"I thank MAG for removing these deadly weapons and I hope MAG continues to save lives of the people and help them build a better future for themselves."
- Fatih, Farqan village leader
Fatih, the village leader, told MAG about the threat: "Since we returned to the village there have been nine accidents, injuring and killing many Farqan people."
A Community Liaison (CL) team deployed to Farqan to gather information about the contamination, carrying out a community assessment survey [see below] to ensure minefields posing the greatest threat would be cleared first.
The CL team also delivered Mine Risk Education (MRE) to the villagers. MRE helps minimise the risks for people living, working and travelling through areas contaminated with landmines and/or unexploded ordnance (UXO).
On top of this, MAG Iraq’s technical staff cleared five minefields, removing and destroying more than 340 deadly landmines and items of UXO from the land.
The use of Mine Detection Dogs increased efficiency in establishing whether medium and low-risk areas of the contaminated land was safe to be released, or whether it contained evidence of explosives, and needed to be manually cleared.
"Dogs are vital assets when it comes to landmine clearance," said Snoor Toufiq, MAG's Field Operations Manager in Chamchamal. “Without the MDD [Mine Detection Dog] teams, the clearance process would have taken twice the time and cost much more.”
Khorshed ploughing his cleared land.
[Photos: MAG Iraq]
Of the 173,972 square metres of land given back to the local population following the completion of clearance, more than 49,000 square metres was cleared by MDD teams1.
The huge impact this work has on livelihoods is clear.
"Soon after the first rain, I started ploughing the land MAG cleared for me," said Khorshed, a farmer. "I will use the land for growing wheat and barely which will increase my income and improve my family's life."
"I thank MAG for removing these deadly weapons and I hope MAG continues to save lives of the people and help them build a better future for themselves," Fatih, the village leader, added.
"Soon after the first rain, I started ploughing the land MAG cleared for me," said Khorshed Jabar, a farmer from Farqan whose land was cleared by MAG teams in October 2010. "I will use the land for growing wheat and barely which will increase my income and improve my family's life," he added.
1 The US Department of State's Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement and the Marshall Legacy Institute fund MAG Iraq’s Mine Detection Dog teams. The non-MDD work in this article was funded by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Community assessment surveys
MAG Community Liaison teams use community assessment surveys to help prioritise tasks.Such a survey captures quantitative and socio-economic data on the impact of remnants of conflict, as well as impact on wider conflict recovery and rehabilitation.
The process is based on door-to-door surveys, with communities affected by remnants of conflict playing a central role in recommending tasks for prioritised clearance. This survey also provides the CL team with important information about the potential impact of MAG’s work.
[Photo: A MAG Community Liaison team interviews Fatih during the community assessment survey in Farqan]
16 February 2011
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- More on Mine Risk Education
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- Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website
- Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs website
- Marshall Legacy Institute website
- Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement website